Obama nominates special representative on Myanmar

Defence official, Derek Mitchell, will shape US policy towards Myanmar.

Washington: President Barack Obama on Thursday nominated defence official Derek Mitchell as his special representative on Myanmar to shape US policy towards the country after its criticised political transition.

Mitchell, a veteran Asia hand, will assume responsibility for the US approach to a nation with which Washington has a tense relationship due to the government`s suppression of Aung San Sui Kyi`s democracy movement.

Obama officially announced the move in a White House statement. Mitchell`s appointment will need to be confirmed by the Senate, in a hearing likely to give voice to Myanmar`s fierce opponents on Capitol Hill.

After Obama took office in January 2009, his administration concluded that Western efforts to isolate the military-led nation had been ineffective and initiated a dialogue with the junta.

But the United States has since voiced disappointment over developments in Myanmar, including an election in November widely denounced as a sham, but has said that it sees no alternative to engagement at such a fluid time.

Congress approved a wide-ranging law on Myanmar in 2008 that tightened sanctions and created the special envoy position. Then-president George W Bush named Michael Green, formerly one of his top aides, but the nomination died in the Senate due to an unrelated political dispute.

Myanmar`s ruling junta officially disbanded this month, giving the country a nominally civilian government for the first time in nearly a century.

But many analysts dismissed the move as top junta figures remain firmly in leadership positions, albeit without their uniforms.

Aung San Suu Kyi has no voice in Myanmar`s new parliament. Her National League for Democracy was disbanded after it chose to boycott the elections, which it suspected were designed to marginalise the opposition and ethnic minorities.

Bureau Report