Saturday, 5 November 2011

US envoy makes second Burma visit

US envoy makes second Burma visit thumbnail

Washington’s new envoy to Burma arrived in the Southeast Asian country on Monday for his second visit in two months, aiming to further the US strategy of engagement.
Derek Mitchell, who was appointed as the first US coordinator for policy on Burma in August, met the foreign affairs minister in the capital Naypyidaw during the two-day visit, Burma officials told AFP.
“Ambassador Mitchell plans to visit Burma frequently to build on our ongoing principled engagement, including dialogue with the Burmese government and local stakeholders,” said a US embassy spokeswoman in Rangoon.
“He uses every opportunity to raise with Burmese authorities our longstanding core concerns,” she said, adding that these included the release of all political prisoners and dialogue with opposition and ethnic minority groups.
Mitchell, a veteran policymaker on Asia, said this month that Burma’s nominally civilian government was showing “encouraging signs” of change but must commit to deeper reforms and halt violence against minorities if it wants sanctions eased.
He said that the freeing of more than 200 political prisoners in mid-October was welcome, but that more needed to be done for Burma to prove it was serious about a transition to democracy.
In addition to the prisoner release, officials in Burma have spoken out about curbing censorship and recently defied ally China by freezing work on an unpopular dam — moves few would have imagined a year ago.
Mitchell’s first visit in September included talks with ministers of the new government and opposition icon Aung San Suu Kyi.
His post was created when Congress, under then-president George W. Bush, approved a law on Burma in 2008 that tightened sanctions against the country, but the position was not filled at the time due to a political dispute.
After taking power in 2009, President Barack Obama’s administration changed tack, concluding that the sanctions aimed at isolating Burma had been ineffective.

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I am an independent man who voted to humanitarian aid.