New U.S. envoy to Burma, Derek Mitchell has spoken positively of his visit to Burma, describing talks with government officials as beneficial.
On Wednesday, in a press conference held at Rangoon airport at the end of his 5 day trip, he told journalists that:
“I consider this a highly productive visit”
This is Mitchell’s first trip to Burma since he was newly appointed as the first US coordinator for policy on Burma last month.
During his visit he met with several senior officials in Naypyidaw, including Foreign minister Wunna Maung Lwin and Labour minister Aung Kyi.
Although an audience with the country’s president, Thein Sein was not on the itinerary, Mitchell still had an opportunity to raise concerns about human rights violations, with almost 2000 political prisoners currently detained in the country, he also highlighted the lack of transparency surrounding the government’s relationship with North Korea.
“As I suggested, we had very candid dialogue on the subject. There was no absolute commitment on anything. But we had a very productive on the subject. So, I don’t think there’s anything further that I can say,”
Earlier in his trip Mitchell also visited opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi at her home in Rangoon. Details of their meeting were not disclosed, but Michell revealed they had discussed American policy approaches. When asked about the future of her party, whether the country’s reforms equated real change and on the release of political prisoners Suu Kyi responded with a characteristically cautious answ
“I would be able to answer this question only when it really happens. It’s difficult to answer since we don’t know when and how it will happen.”
Later, at the press conference, when probed on the question of sanctions, Mitchell said the topic was not a priority, but had come up in discussion.
Mitchell’s visit is part of the Obama administration’s strategy of engagement with Burma. As he prepared to leave the country he stressed the commitment of the US to helping Burma cultivate a civilian- led, democratic governing structure. He said the country should begin by releasing political prisoners, and ending ethnic conflicts, and urged Burma’s leaders to show critics they are capable of real change