Myanmar: Derek Mitchell, first US ambassador in 22 years, starts work


US coordinator for policy on Myanmar, Derek Mitchell (L) poses for a photograph next to Myanmar President Thein Sein at the President residence in Naypyidaw on July 11, 2012. Mitchell, the first US ambassador to Myanmar in over two decades will arrive to take up his post on July 11, 2012, US officials said, as dramatic reforms spur greater engagement with the longtime army-run nation.



Derek Mitchell, the first US ambassador to Myanmar in 22 years, formally began his job on Wednesday after arriving in Yangon earlier in the day, according to the Associated Press.

Mitchell met with President Thein Sein in the capital Naypyitaw to carry out to formality of presenting his credentials, said the AP. He previously served as President Barack Obama's special envoy to Myanmar, and his appointment as ambassador was confirmed by the Senate in June.

"He not only has an interest in Myanmar, but he knows a lot about the country so it is good that he has become the ambassador," opposition leader and member of parliament Aung San Suu Kyi told Agence France Presse.

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Washington appears ready to ease more sanctions against Myanmar, also known as Burma, and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is expected to make an announcement on sanctions later this week while visiting Cambodia. The State Department released a statement saying she would be working with members of the American business community who are anxious to participate in the Southeast Asian country's economy, said AFP.

The US eased some financial embargoes against Myanmar after the by-elections held in April saw Suu Kyi elected to parliament, noted the BBC. President Thein Sein has enacted political and economic reforms and released political prisoners under the nominally civilian government which came to power last year.

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Thein Sein spoke to Singapore's Straits Times and said that the military, which controlled policy in Myanmar for half a century, now has no say in government policy. He said, "This is an armed forces that the country has had to rely on for a very long time for security and to meet external threats," according to Reuters.

He added, "So, it is important at this time that they are not left behind entirely. They have a limited role within the constitution. But they are not involved in any way in the direct affairs of government or government policy."

Thein Sein said, "There can't be peace without democracy and there can't be democracy without peace."

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