Thu 30 Jun 2011
Filed under: Regional
Washington – As he prepares to take on the role of US President Barack Obama’s point man on Myanmar, Derek Mitchell intends to strengthen policy coordination with key players like India, China and Japan to achieve the global objectives in the Southeast Asian nation.
Mitchell, who has been nominated by Obama to be the first US Coordinator for Policy on Burma, told his Congressional hearing that Myanmar was a source of concern and political instability in the region.
Contending that the policy of pressure and engagement alone has not worked in that country, he said he would seek “direct and candid” talks with Myanmar’s leaders and suggested that the US should “respond flexibly and with agility to opportunities as they arise.”
Mitchell said he hoped to coordinate policy with key players like China, India, Japan, South Korea and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).
“To date, in my view, the inability of key members of the Burma-interested community around the world to coordinate their approach to Burma has only undermined the effective realisation of shared objectives,” he said.
With a government that has chosen to distance itself from the outside world, Myanmar is now the poorest country in Southeast Asia and “a source of great concern and potential instability in the region”, he said.
Though rich in natural resources, nearly a third of its population lives in poverty and thousands are forced to seek asylum in neighbouring countries due to “systemic repression” of the ethnic-minorities, he said.
He said though the Myanmar government has claimed a successful transition to a disciplined democracy, a political system that exhibits anything close to recognisable standards of representative democracy remains to be seen. Mitchell said over the past two decades international policies of either pressure or engagement alone have not
produced the change in Myanmar that the US and the international community seek.
“In September 2009, the Obama administration completed its Burma policy review and announced its intention to pursue a more flexible US policy approach that integrated both sanctions and engagement, a dual-track approach fully consistent with President Obama’s call for principled engagement with nations around the world,” he said.
US relations with Myanmar, however, have been strained, he said.
Mitchell said the US still seeks a peaceful, prosperous, open and democratic Myanmar that respects the rights of all its citizens and that adheres to its international obligations.
“The United States remains prepared to establish a policy relationship based on mutual respect and mutual benefit with a Burmese leadership that adheres to and advances these principles,” he said.
If confirmed, he said, he will seek opportunities for direct and candid dialogue.
“I will report regularly, including to the US Congress, on results of this engagement so we may calibrate our dual-track policy appropriately.
“I believe we should be prepared to respond flexibly and with agility to opportunities as they arise in Burma, according to evolving conditions on the ground,” he said.
“If confirmed, I will also conduct extensive consultations with key stakeholders inside and outside government, at home and abroad. My objective will be to implement US law faithfully and coordinate efforts to advance our common objectives,” he said.