Mon 31 Oct 2011
Filed under: International
Yangon — Two senior US diplomats are due to visit Myanmar this week, an official in the military-dominated nation said Sunday, as Washington pursues a policy of engagement with the new civilian leadership.Derek Mitchell, the new US coordinator for policy on Myanmar, is expected to be accompanied by the assistant secretary of state for democracy, human rights and labour, Michael Posner.
The pair will spend four days in Myanmar, starting on Tuesday, according to a Myanmar government official who did not want to be named.
It was unclear whether they would meet President Thein Sein, but a spokesman for pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi said the US diplomats would hold talks with the Nobel Peace Prize winner on Friday.
It will be the third visit by Mitchell since September, underscoring renewed diplomatic efforts by Washington to encourage diplomatic reforms in the authoritarian state, the subject of wide-ranging US sanctions.
Without confirming the visit, US State Department spokeswoman Beth Gosselin, said Mitchell uses his trips to Myanmar to raise “longstanding concerns” including the release of political prisoners, human rights abuses and the treatment of ethnic minorities.
Myanmar is now ruled by a nominally civilian government but its ranks are filled with former generals.
Hopes of political change have grown recently, with efforts by the new regime to reach out to opponents and a government move to defy ally China by freezing work on an unpopular mega dam.
A recent prisoner amnesty, however, by the new government failed to free most key dissidents, disappointing those who had hoped the country would release all its roughly 2,000 political detainees.
On Sunday Suu Kyi held a fourth round of talks since her release with labour minister Aung Kyi, the liaison between the opposition leader and the regime.
Her National League for Democracy party won a 1990 election but was never allowed to take power.
It boycotted the country’s first ballot in 20 years, held last November, largely because of rules that would have forced it to expel imprisoned members. As a result it was delisted as a political party.
Suu Kyi has hailed recent signs of political change in Myanmar after almost half a century of military rule, but says it is unclear whether Thein Sein will be able to carry through his reform pledges.
The US diplomats are also expected to meet the leader of the National Democratic Force (NDF), a splinter group of ex-members of Suu Kyi’s party who broke away to contest the election and hold a handful of parliamentary seats.
“I will ask about the economic sanctions and why they are still keeping them even after they have seen some developments and reforms in our country,” said NDF head Khin Maung Swe.