US nominates first ambassador to Burma in 22 years

Posted on | mei 24, 2012 | No Comments

Derek Mitchell meeting Aung San Suu Kyi

I don’t know if he suspected that he’d be promoted back in January when he gave the Center for Asian Democracy’s inaugural annual lecture, but on May 17th Derek Mitchell, the Special Representative and Policy Coordinator for Burma, was nominated by President Obama to be the first US ambassador to the country in 22 years. The decision by the Obama administration to appoint a new ambassador comes as no surprise but it is more evidence of the dramatic changes that have taken place in Burma over the past 18 months. It also represents the latest in a series of measures by the US government to reward that progress and strengthen the hand of reformers in the Burmese government.

For Mitchell, assuming the nomination is accepted (which is likely given the bipartisan support for his nomination to the position of Special representative), the appointment will represent the culmination of a personal journey. Early in his career Mitchell expressed a profound interest and goal in helping to promote democratization in Burma. In 1996 he produced a testimonial video on Aung San Suu Kyi for the National Democratic Institute for International Affairs when she was awarded the Harriman Democracy Award, and in 2007 co-authored an influential article in the journal Foreign Affairs with Michael Green that called for a new policy towards the country.

Mitchell’s appointment comes as European countries have agreed to a 12-month suspension of economic and financial sanctions on the country, and amidst increased pressure within the US to ease trade restrictions. It also comes on the eve of Suu Kyi’s first trip outside the country since she returned from England at the height of the protest movement for democracy in 1988. The Burmese opposition leader is due to collect the Nobel Peace Prize she was awarded in 1991 in a few weeks time and then travel to Switzerland and Britain where she will address the International Labor Organization and British parliament respectively.

AUTHOR: Dr. Jason Abbott
E-MAIL: [at]


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