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After 2 decades, US appoints envoy to Myanmar

June 30, 2012 17:14 IST

For the first time in 22 years, the United States has appointed its ambassador to Myanmar as part of efforts to upgrade ties with the country which has launched a slew of democratic reforms after five decades of authoritarian rule.

The appointment of veteran diplomat Derek Mitchell, who was till now the Special US Representative and Policy Coordinator for Myanmar, was confirmed by the Senate on Friday and he is expected to leave for that country soon.

47-year-old Mitchell's appointment as the US envoy to Myanmar follows steps taken by the two countries in recent months to normalise diplomatic ties following democratic reforms in Myanmar.

The US is currently represented by a lower-level diplomat in Yangon. Myanmar is also expected to send a full Ambassador to Washington.

"I congratulate Derek Mitchell on his confirmation as our Ambassador to Burma," said Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell.

"He has done an excellent job in his current role as Special Representative and Policy Coordinator for Burma; his experience will serve us well in the region as he builds on the strong foundation established by Michael Thurston and our embassy team in Rangoon (Yangon)," McConnell said.

Earlier this week, during his confirmation hearing, Mitchell said if confirmed as ambassador to Myanmar he would work with both the opposition and the government.

"Perhaps the most important development of the past year, has been the partnership between Aung San Suu Kyi and President Thein Sein," he told members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee during the confirmation hearing.

"President Thein Sein has proved to be a remarkable figure. We should never forget to recognise his extraordinary vision and leadership and the many reformist steps he and his partners in government have taken over the past year.

"Steps that have clearly reflected the aspirations, indeed sacrifices of millions of brave Burmese over many years," Mitchell said, noting that at the same time, the US has no illusions about the challenges that lie ahead.

Reforms, he said, are not irreversible and continued democratic change is not inevitable.

"We remain deeply concerned about the continued detention of hundreds of political prisoners and conditions placed on those previously released, lack of the rule of law and the constitutional role of the military in the nation's affairs. Human rights abuses including military impunity continue, particularly in ethnic minority areas."

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