Ambassador Derek Mitchell is currently visiting Burma, but the US should not allow this visit to be construed as positive change in the country. We have seen over the past years how just meetings with officials and representatives is not enough. The UN has sent an envoy to Burma almost 40 times now, and yet the number of villages destroyed in Burma increases. Political prisoners are still in jail. These country visits are not enough to ensure change.
The good news is that Mitchell’s position is not an envoy position, it’s much more than that. He is the first ever U.S. Special Representative and Policy Coordinator for Burma. This position was created by the United States Congress more than three years ago with the Tom Lantos Block Burma JADE Act of 2008. The position is different than an envoy. The U.S. Special Representative and Policy Coordinator is tasked to promote a comprehensive international effort, including multilateral sanctions, direct dialogue with Burma’s regime and democracy forces, consult with the European Union, ASEAN, Burma’s neighboring countries and regional powers, and coordinate sanctions within the U.S. Government and other relevant international financial institutions. We want him to do more than just go and meet, but to really coordinate and strengthen US and international efforts.
During his trip he met with the NLD in Burma as well as social service programs such as Phyu Phyu Thin’s HIV/AIDS clinic. He is also meeting with officials in Naypyitaw. After Burma he will also have meetings in Thailand and Jakarta.
Mitchell said during his trip that he is there to ” learn and to listen and to engage and have very frank conversations and to see places like this, which are remarkable evidence of the vitality and the commitment of the people of this country.”
We hope that Ambassador Mitchell will recognize quickly that benchmarks for progress in Burma need not to just be laid down, but enforced as well. That’s why we are calling for the deadline of October 15th, otherwise how much longer will we wait to see if the regime do anything good? Derek Mitchell should take the opportunity to try and halt the regime’s wait and see game.