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Appointment of U.S. Special Representative and Policy Coordinator for Burma is the First Step in the Right Direction, More Presidential Actions Are Required

By US Campaign for Burma  •  April 18, 2011

The U. S. Campaign for Burma (USCB), a Washington, DC-based organization campaigning to end crimes against humanity and the culture of impunity in the Southeast Asian country, today welcomes President Obama’s nomination of Derek Mitchell to be the U.S. Special Representative and Policy Coordinator for Burma. This position was created by the United States Congress more than two years ago with the Tom Lantos Block Burma Jade Act of 2008 (the Jade Act). The Senate will have to confirm this nomination.

“It is encouraging that President Obama finally decided to nominate someone to be the U.S. Special Representative and Policy Coordinator for Burma. Although this action is long overdue, I still appreciate the President making such move at a time when Burma is effectively moving towards increased civil war and further instability, as orchestrated by the military regime,” says Aung Din, a former political prisoner and Executive Director of USCB.

According to Section 7 of the Jade Act, the U.S. Special Representative and Policy Coordinator is tasked to promote a comprehensive international effort, including multilateral sanctions, direct dialogue with Burma’s regime and democracy forces, consult with the European Union, ASEAN, Burma’s neighboring countries and regional powers, and coordinate sanctions within the U.S. Government and other relevant international financial institutions. The U.S. Congress clearly understands that sanctions imposed upon Burma’s regime should be well-organized, strengthened, and coordinated among the sanctioning governments to ensure they have an effective impact on the regime with an intention to realize a meaningful political dialogue between the military, democracy forces led by Nobel Peace Prize Recipient Aung San Suu Kyi, and ethnic nationality representatives.

Recently, the military regime completed its seven step road map and formed a so-called civilian government led by former Prime Minister Thein Sein, whose cabinet is comprised of active-duty generals and retired generals. The regime’s mass organization, Union Solidarity and Development Association (USDA), notorious for its brutal crackdown on democracy activists and assassination attempt of Aung San Suu Kyi in the Depayin Massacre in May 2003, became the regime’s proxy party and election winning party.  Burma is now ruled by two sets of boots, the military run by currently serving generals and its proxy party, the Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP), run by retired generals. Meanwhile, severe fighting broke out between the regime’s troops and ethnic resistance groups in several ethnic states, including Shan, Karen, Kachin, Karenni and Mon. Hundreds of soldiers from both sides were killed during the fight and many injured. Several villages were destroyed by the regime’s troops and thousands of ethnic villagers are being forced to carry the regime’s military equipment and act as human minesweepers. Fighting is expected to increase in the future as the regime is reinforcing its troops in these areas with thousands of additional troops, and heavy artillery, including cannons, tanks, and missiles.

“In addition to the nomination of the Special Representative and Policy Coordinator, we want President Obama to take decisive action, organizing the members of the United Nations to establish a Commission of Inquiry in Burma to investigate war crimes and crimes against humanity perpetrated by Burma’s military for decades. Such a Commission is urgently required to prevent further killings by the regime and push it to solve the problems in Burma through a meaningful political dialogue. President Obama’s leadership is needed to make it happen,” Aung Din continues.

Media Contact: Jennifer Quigley at (202) 234 8022

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This post is in: Press Release

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