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US appoints Mitchell as ambassador to Burma

After 22 years, the United States will have an ambassador serving in Burma.

The US Senate confirmed Derek Mitchell, the former special envoy to Burma, as America continues to engage the former pariah state and seeks to consolidate the country’s diplomatic pivot to Asia.

Before being officially appointed, Mitchell testified in front of the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee on 27 June.

“We have no illusions about the challenges that lie ahead. As Secretary Clinton has observed, reform is not irreversible, and continued democratic change is not inevitable,” said Mitchell during his congressional testimony.

“As the Burmese government has taken steps over the past year, so too has the United States in an action-for-action approach. Each action we have taken in recent months has had as its purpose to benefit the Burmese people and strengthen reform and reformers within the system.”

Mitchell’s confirmation comes as the Asian Development Bank is likely put pressure on the US to drop more sanctions placed on Burma.

According to Bloomberg, the US Treasury Department is bound by law to block the ADB and World Bank from providing most aid to Burma.

“There are other donors and other shareholders of the ADB and the World Bank that are very keen for these institutions to move forward,” said Vice President of ADB Stephen Groff in an interview with Bloomberg.

A Rangoon-based foreign analyst, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said the US government’s slow approach to lifting sanctions was causing a deepening rift inside President Thein Sein’s government between hardliners and reformists.

“[Thein Sein’s government] are under pressure from elements within the system that are resisting changes and they need help,” said the analyst.

“The message the US is sending to the [Burmese] authorities is not good and it makes their position in Naypyidaw difficult as this is ammunition that can be used by the hardliners to strengthen their argument that the reforms are not working.”

-Kate Kelly contributed reporting from Rangoon.



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