Burma (Myanmar)

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Overview
Burma, also known as Myanmar, is a Buddhist nation of about 48 million people, two thirds of whom are Burmans. The other third of the population is divided amongst at least 135 ethnic groups, including the Shan, Karen, Rakhine, Mon and Kachin. There are about two million Christians and an equal number of Muslims. A military junta has ruled the country since 1962 and many of the ethnic minorities have been fighting against government forces ever since. There are one million internally displaced persons and 700,000 Burmese who are legal refugees in other countries, most of them in Thailand and Bangladesh. Another two million Burmese work in Thailand.
 
Burma is rich in hardwoods and accounts for 75% of the world trade in teak. It is also the world’s second-largest producer of illegal opium (behind Afghanistan). The US and other countries have imposed economic sanctions against Burma. However, some American companies have continued to do business with Burma, including large multi-national oil companies and jewelers.
 
Thanks to free education provided by Buddhist monks, Burma has a long history of literacy, particularly among boys and men. The military government has all but destroyed the nation’s intellectual tradition. In 2003-4, only 1.3% of the national budget was devoted to education. Less than one-third of girls now complete primary school and the high school graduation for boys and girls has dropped to 2%.
 
There is a saying in Burma that one must be wary of five evils: fire, water (storms and floods), thieves, mean people and…government.
 
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Basic Information

Lay of the Land: Burma is situated in Southeast Asia and includes the valleys of the Irrawaddy, Sittang, and Salween rivers and the west coast of the northern Malay Archipelago. Mountains, the highest of which reaches 19,000 feet, rim the country on the north, east, and west, while other ranges divide the major river valleys, which hold most of the population.

 
Population: 47.8 million
 
Religions: Buddhist (predominantly Theravada) 74.1%, Ethnoreligious 11.0%, Christian 7.1%, Muslim 3.8%, Hindu 1.7%, Confucianist 1.5%, Chinese Universalist 0.3%, Baha'i 0.2%, non-religious 0.5%.
 
Ethnic Groups: Burman 68%, Shan 95, Karen 7%, Rakhine 4%, Chinese 3%, Indian 2%, Mon 2%, other 5%.
 
Languages: Burmese (official) 74.9%, Shan 7.5%, Karen (e.g. Zayein, Yintale, Paku, Lahta, Brek, Geba...) 7.2%, Jingpho 2.1%, Yangbye 1.9%, Mon 1.7%, Arakanese 1.7%, Palaung (Pale, Rumai, Shwe) 1.3%, Wa 1.3%, Tavoyan 0.9%, Akha 0.5%, . There are 108 living languages in Burma.
 

 

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History
Beginning in about 800 AD, the Burmans migrated from Eastern Tibet into the lowlands of present-day Burma. The Mon people were already settled in the fertile coastal area and the Shan were living in the northeastern hills. King Anawrata established his capital at Pagan in the 11th Century and was the first Burman king to promote Buddhism. He was also the first to build an empire. In 1057, he invaded the Mon kingdom in Lower Burma and captured monks and scholars, whom he brought to Pagan to teach Buddhism and to instruct village boys to read and write. In the late 13th Century, the Shan sought protection from the Mongol empire. The Mongol emperor, Kublai Khan, sent in a large armed force that completely destroyed the Burman kingdom. For the next 450 years, the region was plagued by a series of civil wars.
 
Beginning in 1753, a new Burmese kingdom began reuniting various states. The Burmans also raided Thailand and fought off two invasions by China’s Manchu Dynasty. In the early 19th Century, Burman forces moved west into Assam and ran into the British East India Company. European explorers and merchants had been around since the 16th Century, but this was the first time the Burmans seriously clashed with the Europeans. What later came to be known as the First Burmese War broke out in 1824. British troops drove the Burmans out of Assam and then captured the coastal states of Arakan and Tenasserim. They continued up the Irrawaddy River until the Burmans surrendered. The Second Burmese War, in 1852-1853, ended with the British annexing Lower Burma. In 1878, King Thibaw attempted to lessen British influence by establishing trade relations with the French. The Third Burmese War began in 1885. The following year, the British annexed central and northern Burma, banished the king and his family to India and put an end to Burman rule, ruling Burma themselves as a province of British India.
 
To the British East India Company, Burma was basically a source of exploitable resources, in particular teak, oil, tin and rubies and other gems. They built railroads and roads and developed river transport to get at what they wanted, and they brought with them Indians to work as clerks and farmers. They also opened Burma to Indian and Chinese merchants.
 
The Great Depression of 1929 in the US reached Burma the following year. The price of rice plummeted and many Burmese farmers lost their land to Indian moneylenders. In 1931, anti-Indian and anti-Chinese riots broke because it was easier to attack the Indians and Chinese who had taken money and jobs from the Burmans than it was to attack the British who had created the policies that benefited the immigrants. The Burmans, however, did occasionally rise up and this resistance came to a head in the 1930s. In 1930, an ex-monk named Saya San led a revolt in which thousands of armed peasants attacked colonial offices. The British brutally suppressed the revolt, displaying the severed heads of rebellious peasants, 10,000 of whom they killed, and hanging Saya San.
 
But in February 1936, an incident occurred that, although less violent, was to prove a harbinger of major changes ahead. The student magazine at the University of Rangoon published an article that specifically criticized a school administrator. When the editors of the magazine refused to reveal the name of the author of the article, the university expelled the editor and the head of the student union. This led to student demonstrations that spread to colleges and high schools around the country. The student editor, only 21 years old at the time, was Aung San, who went on to become the leading military figure in Burma during World War II.
 
When Japan invaded Burma, Burmese nationalists, led by General Aung San, joined the Japanese forces in driving out the British. When the tide of the war turned against the Japanese, the Burmese Army switched sides and helped US and British forces take control of Burma. After WWII ended, Aung San managed to convince the British not to retake control of Burma, which paved the way for the country’s independence in 1948. Aung San was assassinated with most of his cabinet before a new constitution went into effect.
 
For the next 14 years, Burma endured widespread internal strife, owing to constitutional disputes and fighting between political and ethnic groups. This instability paved the way for Burma’s first military takeover, which took place in 1958 at the invitation of Prime Minister U Nu. The military stepped down after 18 months, but then in 1962 General Ne Win led a military coup and abolished the constitution. The junta established a xenophobic climate that distanced the country from the rest of the world, and it imposed socialist economic policies that did little to help the country.
 
In spite of its closed-off policies, Burma provided the United Nations with its third Secretary General, U Thant, during the 1960s. A close friend of former Prime Minister U Nu, U Thant served as Burma’s representative to the UN and eventually succeeded Secretary General Dag Hammarskjöld after he died in a plane crash. U Thant served as the UN’s top official during the Cuban Missile Crisis and the civil war in the Congo, stepping down in 1971.
 
By March 1988, the economy was so bad that students took to the streets to protest. The military and police cracked down on the demonstrators, killing more than a 1,000 at one demonstration alone. At a rally following this massacre, Aung San Suu Kyi, the daughter of Aung San, made her first political speech and assumed the role of opposition leader. It wasn’t long before the junta placed her under house arrest.
 
In September, the military deposed Ne Win’s Burmese Socialist Program Party and established a new ruling junta called the State Law and Order Restoration Council (SLORC). The SLORC sent the army into the streets to suppress the ongoing public demonstrations. An estimated additional 3,000 were killed, and more than 10,000 students fled the cities.
 
The SLORC ruled by martial law until parliamentary elections were held in May 1990. Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD) party won 392 of the 485 seats, even though their leader was still under house arrest. However, the SLORC refused to honor the results and instead imprisoned many political activists. The following year, Aung San Suu Kyi was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. Her son, Alexander, accepted the prize on behalf of all the Burmese people.
 
The ruling junta changed its name to the State Peace and Development Council (SPDC) in 1997, but did not change its policy of autocratic control and repression of the democratic opposition. It continued to subject Aung San Suu Kyi to varying forms of detention and other restrictions on her movement, which it periodically lifted only to reinstate them later.
 
At the beginning of this decade, political conditions showed some signs of improving. The SPDC began talks with Aung San Suu Kyi and her supporters. These talks were followed by the release of political prisoners and some increase in political freedoms for the NLD. In May 2002, Aung San Suu Kyi was allowed to leave her home and travel throughout the country, where she was greeted by large crowds. But in May 2003, Aung San Suu Kyi and a convoy of her supporters were attacked by a group that was linked to the junta. Many members of the convoy were killed or injured, and others disappeared. Aung San Suu Kyi and other members of her party were detained, and the military government forcibly closed the offices of the NLD. Aung San Suu Kyi returned to house arrest.
 
Following a sharp increase in fuel prices in August 2007, pro-democracy groups began a series of peaceful marches and demonstrations to protest the deteriorating economic situation in Burma. The junta arrested more than 150 activists in response. Then, Buddhist monks became involved in rallies, garnering international attention. In September, security forces attacked demonstrations by monks, triggering outrage throughout the world.
 
In May 2008, Burma was struck by Cyclone Nargis, which caused widespread flooding and killed thousands. Foreign governments and the UN offered to help, but the junta was slow to embrace the offers, leading to more suffering in parts of the country. Outside experts estimated that as many as 100,000 people may have died as a result of the storm and the lack of help caused by the junta.
 
Despite the devastation wreaked by the cyclone, the junta decided to carry out a referendum on a new constitution. The referendum was rife with irregularities, according to the US State Department. Nevertheless, the junta announced that 92.5% of voters approved the constitution, with a 98% voter turnout.
 
History of Burma (Wikipedia)
History of Burma (World-Wide Web Library)
Brief History of Burma (by Thomas R. Lansner, UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism)
Brief History (Campaigning for Human Rights and Democracy in Burma)
History of Burma (Canadian Friends of Burma)
Burma Cyclone (BBC News)
Drugs problem in Burma and Drug Trafficking in Mon Areas (Human Rights Foundation of Monland)
 

 

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Burma (Myanmar)'s Newspapers
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History of U.S. Relations with Burma (Myanmar)

The United States has not been deeply involved with Burma since World War II, when the American military worked with the British to battle Japanese forces occupying the country. After the war, Burma accepted foreign assistance to help rebuild the country. However, American support for Chinese Nationalists, who utilized the China-Burma border in their fight against Mao Zedong’s Communist forces, caused a strain in US-Burma relations. This lead to Burma’s decision to stop accepting most foreign aid and its refusal to join the South-East Asia Treaty Organization (SEATO), which the United States pushed to help stem the advance of socialist movements in Southeast Asia.

 
The United States downgraded its level of representation in Burma from ambassador to Chargé d'Affaires after the government’s crackdown on the democratic opposition in 1988 and its failure to honor the results of the 1990 parliamentary election.
The Burma Campaign 1941-1945 (by Michael Hickey, BBC)
 
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Current U.S. Relations with Burma (Myanmar)

The relationship between the US and Burma worsened after the 1988 military coup and the violent suppression of pro-democracy demonstrations. Subsequent repression, including the brutal crackdown on peaceful protestors in September 2007, further strained relations.

 
In 2003 Congress adopted the Burma Freedom and Democracy Act (BFDA), which banned all imports from Burma and exports of financial services to Burma, froze the assets of certain Burmese financial institutions, and extended visa restrictions on Burmese officials. Congress has renewed the BFDA annually, most recently in July 2008.
 
Since September 27, 2007, the Treasury Department has blocked the assets of 25 senior Burmese government officials under Executive Order 13310. On October 19, 2007, President George W. Bush announced a new Executive Order (E.O. 13348) which expanded the authority to block assets to individuals who are responsible for human rights abuses and public corruption, as well as those who provide material and financial support to the regime. Other names were added to the targeted sanctions list in November 2007 and in February and March 2008. On April 30, 2008, the President issued Executive Order 13464 (PDF), blocking all property owned by the government of Burma or its officials.
 
Due to the government’s violations of religious freedom, the US has designated Burma a Country of Particular Concern (CPC) under the International Religious Freedom Act. Burma is also designated a Tier 3 Country in the Trafficking in Persons Report for its use of forced labor.
 
There are reportedly 7,196 Burmese currently living in the US. Immigration from Burma to the US was limited before the passage of the Immigration Act of 1965, which roughly coincided with the flight of students and intellectuals from Burma during the military takeover of 1962. Most Burmese settled in large cities such as Chicago, New York, Los Angeles and Washington DC.
 
In 2006 18,052 Americans visited Burma. Tourism has gradually increased since 2002, when 14,477 Americans traveled to Burma. Only 1,039 Burmese visited the US in 2006, up slightly from 760 in 2005.
 
Burma-US Relations (by Larry A. Niksch, Congressional Research Service) (PDF)
 
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Where Does the Money Flow

Due to the imposition of economic sanctions, the US has cutoff imports from Burma since 2003. However, loopholes in US law have allowed US jewelers to import precious stones, such as rubies and jade, from Burma through third-party countries. A few jewelry retailers, notably Tiffany & Co. and Leber Jewelers, have long refused to purchase gems of Burmese origin. In October 2007, the Jewelers of America, an industry association, asked Congress to fully ban Burmese gems and encouraged its 11,000 members to halt purchases of these gems until democratic reforms take place in Burma. In July 2008, Congress attempted to close the loophole in federal law by requiring US retailers to keep records detailing the origin of rubies and jade and to prove they did not come from Burma.

 
US trade barriers also have not entirely shut off the flow of exports to Burma, although in total, sales from the US amounted only to $8.7 million in 2007. The largest exports were animal feeds ($1.6 million) and household goods ($1.4 million).
 
Furthermore, a few US companies continue to do business in Burma, according to human rights organizations. Baker Hughes, based in Houston, TX, is a supplier of products and services to the oil and natural gas industry that has offices in Rangoon. Oil giant Chevron has been one of the joint venture partners developing the Yadana offshore gas field in Burma, which earns the military regime millions of dollars. Chevron owns Unocal, which was the focus of a lawsuit by EarthRights International in 1996 on behalf of Burmese villagers who had been forced to work on the Yadana gas pipeline project and who had experienced rape and murder at the hands of the Burmese military. In a landmark ruling in June 2004, the US Supreme Court ruled 6-3 that the Alien Tort Claims Act could be used by foreigners to file lawsuits in the United States about abuses committed abroad. It was the first time that a US multinational corporation was held accountable under US law for its foreign investment decisions and activities abroad. In December 2004, Unocal settled the suits that had been filed in both California and federal courts.
 
According to the State Department, the US gave $13 million in aid to Burma in 2007. The budget allotted the most funds to Humanitarian Assistance: Protection, Assistance and Solutions ($5.7 million), Civil Society ($3.5 million), Health ($2.1 million), and Education ($1.5 million). The 2008 budget estimate increased aid to $15.7 million, and the 2009 budget is set for $15.9 million. The 2009 budget will distribute the most aid to Humanitarian Assistance: Protection, Assistance and Solutions ($6.2 million), Civil Society ($4.5 million), Health ($2.1 million), and Rule of Law and Human Rights ($1.6 million). Humanitarian assistance provides food, education and medical care to the 500,000 displaced people and 140,000 refugees residing in Thailand.
 
US: Burma Gem Ban Strengthened (Human Rights Watch)
The “Dirty List” of Companies (Campaigning for Human Rights and Democracy in Burma)
 
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Controversies
McCain Convention Chair Steps Down After Burma Connections Revealed
Republican presidential nominee John McCain’s choice for managing the GOP convention was forced to resign in May 2008 after his connection to the Burma junta became public. Doug Goodyear, lobbyist and CEO of the DCI Group, a consulting firm that earned $3 million lobbying for ExxonMobil, General Motors and other clients, was paid $348,000 in 2002 to represent the military regime in Rangoon, which had been strongly condemned by the State Department for its human-rights record. Justice Department lobbying records showed DCI pushed to “begin a dialogue of political reconciliation” with the regime. It also led a public relations campaign to burnish the junta’s image, drafting press releases praising Burma’s efforts to curb the drug trade and denouncing “falsehoods” by the Bush administration that the regime engaged in rape and other abuses.
 
Cyclone Aid Lands in Burma, Drawing Controversy
Following a deadly cyclone in May 2008, the US pledged an additional $13 million in aid, bringing the total to $16.25 million. As the first American planes touched down in Burma, US officials hoped that relief flights approved by the ruling military junta would forge a relationship that would allow the US to send in disaster experts to help. The junta said that it would distribute the supplies as it saw fit, which drew comments from UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon, calling on the junta to “put its people’s lives first.”
 
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Human Rights

According to the State Department, Burma’s human rights record has only gotten worse over the years. Among the many reported problems are government security forces killing demonstrators, allowing custodial deaths to occur and other extrajudicial killings, disappearances, rape and torture. US officials report, “In addition, regime‑sponsored, mass-member organizations such as the Union Solidarity and Development Association (USDA) and regime-backed ‘private’ militias increasingly engaged in harassment, abuse, and detention of human rights and pro-democracy activists. The government continued to detain civic activists indefinitely and without charges, including more than 3,000 persons suspected of taking part in pro-democracy demonstrations in September and October (2007), at least 300 members of the National League for Democracy (NLD), and at least 15 members of the 88 Generation Students prodemocracy activists.

 
“The government continued to prohibit the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) from working unhindered in conflict areas and visiting prisoners privately. The army continued its attacks on ethnic minority villagers in Bago Division and Karen and Shan states to drive them from their traditional land. The government abused prisoners and detainees, held persons in harsh and life‑threatening conditions, routinely used incommunicado detention, and imprisoned citizens arbitrarily for political motives. NLD General Secretary Aung San Suu Kyi and NLD Vice Chairman Tin Oo remained under house arrest. The government routinely infringed on citizens’ privacy and restricted freedom of speech, press, assembly, association, religion, and movement. The government did not allow domestic human rights nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) to function independently, and international NGOs encountered a difficult environment. Violence and societal discrimination against women continued, as did recruitment of child soldiers, discrimination against ethnic minorities, and trafficking in persons, particularly of women and girls. Workers’ rights remained restricted. Forced labor, including that of children, also persisted. The government took no significant actions to prosecute or punish those responsible for human rights abuses.
 
“Ethnic armed groups allegedly committed human rights abuses, including forced labor, although to a much lesser extent than the government. Some cease‑fire groups also reportedly committed abuses, including forced relocation of villagers in their home regions. Armed insurgent groups and cease‑fire groups also recruited child soldiers.”
 
Things that are Illegal in Burma—
·        According to the 1950 Emergency Provisions Act, which is still in force, it is illegal to engage in an act that “causes or intends to disrupt the morality or behavior of a group of people or the general public,” punishable by seven years in prison. It is also illegal to make a written or verbal statement that could “cause misunderstanding among the people.”
·        In 1997, MP-elect Dr. Tin Min Htut was charged with violating the 1947 Foreign Currency Exchange Act because his son was caught playing with two coins from Singapore in a tin cup.
·        James Nichols, the honorary consul representing Scandinavia, died in prison in 1996 while serving three years for unauthorized use of a fax machine.
·        After the 2004 arrest of Khin Nyunt, one of his spokesmen, Col. Hla Min, was charged with possession of a service revolver and “living beyond his means.”
·        In 1996, Burmese dictator Than Shwe issued an order making it illegal, subject to 20 years’ imprisonment, to criticize the National Convention in charge of creating a new constitution or to draft an independent version of a constitution.
·        In December 2004, NLD members were prosecuted for failing to register overnight guests and sentenced to seven years in prison.
·        Fourteen NLD members were arrested on December 6, 2004, for “conspiring to celebrate the National Day” without permission.
·        In October 1997, MP-elect Dr. May Win Myint was sentenced to seven years in prison for traveling with Aung San Suu Kyi inside Rangoon. After he completed his sentence, he was kept in prison anyway.
·        A video shop in Sittwe, in Arakan State, was raided in January 2005 and the shop owners were arrested and fined for renting out tapes of the December 26, 2004. tsunami and its aftermath. The tapes were copies of news broadcasts from CNN and the BBC.
·        In February 2005, the magazine Han Thit (New Style) was suspended for two months for carrying an advertisement that mentioned St. Valentine’s Day.
·        The current affairs magazine Khit-Sann was closed down in September 2004 for being too “pro-American.”
·        In November 2003, three men were sentenced to death for charges that included possessing the business card of an officer of the International Labor Organization (ILO) and possessing ILO documents. Two of the three were released after 14 months.
·        In 2004, numerous people were arrested for “hiding in the dark,” including some who were seized in broad daylight.
·        On January 19, 2004, 26 monks were sentenced to eighteen years in prison for refusing to accept donations from military authorities.
·        In December 2003, Ko Thet Lwin, a 46-year-old man employed by the Canadian firm Ivanhoe Mines Ltd., was sentenced to seven years in prison for accompanying a foreign colleague to the home of Aung San Suu Kyi.
·        Women caught possessing a condom can be charged with prostitution. Abortions are illegal (although approximately 750,000 are performed each year).
·        In September 2004, four Rohingya Muslims were given sentences of five years for repairing a village mosque.
·        In July 2003, Zaw Thet Htwe, the editor of a sports magazine, was arrested after he wrote an article questioning the government’s use of a $4 million grant to develop football (soccer. He was charged with plotting to assassinate military officials and sentenced to death. After a year and a half of international pressure, he was released.
·        In September 2004, in Ye Township, the Thein Kabar Tea Shop was fined for “creating conflict” by playing the Burmese version of BBC radio’s World Service.
·        In June 2004, the government declared it against the law to possess a CD of the Burmese exile hip-hop group Myanmar Future Generation (MFG).
 
 
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Debate
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Past Ambassadors

J. Klahr Huddle
Title: Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary
Appointment: Oct 17, 1947
Presentation of Credentials: Mar 3, 1948
Termination of Mission: Relinquished charge, Nov 28, 1949
Note: Commissioned during a recess of the Senate; recommissioned after confirmation on Dec 9, 1947.

David McK. Key
Title: Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary
Appointment: Mar 17, 1950
Presentation of Credentials: Apr 26, 1950
Termination of Mission: Left post, Oct 28, 1951

William J. Sebald
Title: Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary
Appointment: Apr 25, 1952
Presentation of Credentials: Jul 18, 1952
Termination of Mission: Left post, Jul 15, 1954

Joseph C. Satterthwaite
Title: Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary
Appointment: Apr 4, 1955
Presentation of Credentials: May 10, 1955
Termination of Mission: Left post, Apr 1, 1957

Walter P. McConaughy
Title: Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary
Appointment: May 20, 1957
Presentation of Credentials: Aug 20, 1957
Termination of Mission: Left post, Nov 2, 1959

William P. Snow
Title: Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary
Appointment: Nov 9, 1959
Presentation of Credentials: Dec 1, 1959
Termination of Mission: Left post, May 4, 1961
Note: Commissioned during a recess of the Senate; recommissioned after
confirmation on Jan 21, 1960.

John S. Everton
Title: Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary
Appointment: May 4, 1961
Presentation of Credentials: Jun 10, 1961
Termination of Mission: Left post, May 21, 1963
Note: Commissioned to the Socialist Republic of the Union of Burma.

Henry A. Byroade
Title: Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary
Appointment: Sep 10, 1963
Presentation of Credentials: Oct 7, 1963
Termination of Mission: Left post, Jun 11, 1968

Arthur W. Hummel, Jr.
Title: Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary
Appointment: Sep 26, 1968
Presentation of Credentials: Oct. 1968
Termination of Mission: Left post, Jul 22, 1971

Edwin W. Martin
Title: Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary
Appointment: Aug 10, 1971
Presentation of Credentials: Oct 1, 1971
Termination of Mission: Left post, Nov 20, 1973

David L. Osborn
Title: Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary
Appointment: Feb 28, 1974
Presentation of Credentials: Mar 22, 1974
Termination of Mission: Left post, Jul 25, 1977
Note: Commissioned to the Socialist Republic of the Union of Burma.

Maurice Darrow Bean
Title: Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary
Appointment: Sep 19, 1977
Presentation of Credentials: Nov 8, 1977
Termination of Mission: Left post, Aug 10, 1979
Note: Commissioned to the Socialist Republic of the Union of Burma.

Patricia M. Byrne
Title: Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary
Appointment: Nov 27, 1979
Presentation of Credentials: Jan 14, 1980
Termination of Mission: Left post, Sep 14, 1983
Note: Commissioned to the Socialist Republic of the Union of Burma.

Daniel Anthony O'Donohue
Title: Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary
Appointment: Nov 14, 1983
Presentation of Credentials: Dec 26, 1983
Termination of Mission: Left post, Dec 16, 1986
Note: Commissioned to the Socialist Republic of the Union of Burma.

Burton Levin
Title: Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary
Appointment: Apr 7, 1987
Presentation of Credentials: May 26, 1987
Termination of Mission: Left post, Sep 30, 1990
Note: Commissioned to the Socialist Republic of the Union of Burma.

Note: The following officers served as Chargé d'Affaires ad interim:

Franklin P. Huddle, Jr. (Sep 1990-Sep 1994)
Marilyn Meyers (Sep 1994- Oct 1996).

Frederick Vreeland
Title: Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary
Note: Nomination not acted upon by the Senate.

Parker W. Borg
Title: Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary
Note: Nomination of Jul 22, 1991, not acted upon by the Senate.
 
Note: The following officers served as Chargé d'Affaires ad interim:
Kent M. Wiedemann (Oct 1996-May 1999)
Priscilla A. Clapp (Jul 1999- Aug 2002)
Carmen Maria Martinez (Aug 2002-2005) 
 
 
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Burma (Myanmar)'s Ambassador to the U.S.
ambassador-image Kyaw, Myo Htut

 

Kyaw Myo Htut presented his credentials as ambassador to the United States from Myanmar (formerly Burma) on December 3, 2013. It’s the second ambassadorial posting for Kyaw, who until 2008 was a soldier in his country’s armed forces.

 

Kyaw was born in 1957, and spent part of his childhood in Washington when his father was military attaché in the Burnese embassy. Kyaw joined his country’s military in 1981 and worked his way up, eventually rising to the rank of colonel. He graduated from his country’s Defense Services Academy with a master’s degree in defense studies in 2006.

 

In 2008, Kyaw was plucked from the army and put into his country’s foreign ministry. He didn’t wait long for a big assignment; he was sent that year to Geneva, Switzerland, as Burma’s deputy permanent representative to the United Nations mission there. Kyaw was put in the position of defending his government against European Union criticisms of its treatment of Nobel Peace Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyu.

 

Kyaw was named ambassador to the United Kingdom in 2011. While in that post, he played a role in getting most European Union sanctions against Burma for its human rights violations lifted. During his assignment to the Court of St. James, Kyaw was also accredited as ambassador to Sweden and Norway. He left London upon being named to the Washington job.

 

As ambassador to the United States, a big part of Kyaw’s job is to push for more U.S. investment in his country despite continuing human rights problems.

 

Kyaw is married to Khin Myint Kyi.

-Steve Straehley

 

To Learn More:

Former Military Man Becomes Myanmar’s Reluctant Ambassador (by Larry Luxner, Washington Diplomat)

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Burma (Myanmar)'s Embassy Web Site in the U.S.
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U.S. Ambassador to Burma (Myanmar)

Mitchell, Derek
ambassador-image

There is a saying in Burma that one must be wary of five evils:  fire, water (storms and floods), thieves, mean people and…government. The military junta that has ruled Burma (which it renamed as “Myanmar”) since 1962, has been one of the most repressive of recent decades. After opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi’s party swept to victory in a September 1990 election, the junta simply cancelled the results of the election. In response, the U.S. downgraded its level of representation in Burma from ambassador to chargé d’affaires, and Suu Kyi was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1991.

 

However, in recognition of recent elections and other tiny moves toward democracy in Burma, on April 6, 2012, President Obama announced his intent to nominate Derek J. Mitchell, who is currently American special envoy to Burma, to be the first U.S. ambassador to Burma since ambassador Burton Levin left in September 1990.

 

Mitchell was born September 16, 1964, in Atlanta, Georgia, to Charlotte (née Mendelsohn) and Dr. Malcolm S. Mitchell, an academic medical oncologist and tumor immunologist, while his father was serving in the U.S. Public Health Service. The family settled in Orange, Connecticut, a suburb of New Haven, where Derek Mitchell grew up. He earned a B.A. in Foreign Affairs, with a concentration in Soviet Studies, at the University of Virginia in 1986, and an M.A. in Law and Diplomacy at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy of Tufts University in 1991, earning a certificate for proficiency in Mandarin Chinese.

 

In the years between graduating in Charlottesville and matriculating at Tufts, Mitchell worked as a Senate aide and a journalist in Taiwan. He served as an aide to Senator Edward M. Kennedy (D-Massachusetts) from 1986 to 1988, working as assistant to senior foreign policy adviser Gregory Craig, who was later White House counsel for President Barack Obama.

 

Mitchell started studying Chinese while working in Taipei as a copy editor at The China Post (then Taiwan’s largest English-language daily) from December 1988 to June 1989, and continued his study of Chinese at Nanjing (China) University in the summer of 1990.

 

From 1993 to 1997, Mitchell worked at the National Democratic Institute (NDI), an organization funded since 1983 by the National Endowment for Democracy to channel U.S. money to “pro-democracy” groups that are also friendly to U.S. policy in developing nations. He was senior program officer, first for Asia, from 1993 to 1996, and then to the former Soviet Union from 1996 to 1997.

 

From 2001 to 2009 he was a senior fellow, director for Asia, and director of the Southeast Asia Initiative, at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), in Washington, D.C. He established CSIS’s first dedicated Southeast Asian studies program, and in 2008-2009 led a study on the future of U.S. relations with Thailand, Philippines, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore and Vietnam. His 2007 article in Foreign Affairs, co-authored with Michael Green, has been credited with prefiguring the Obama administration’s new policy toward Burma, whose apparent early success has led to Mitchell’s nomination to be ambassador to Burma. During this time, Mitchell was also a visiting scholar, from April to June 2007, at Peking University’s School of International Studies.

 

Mitchell was appointed principal deputy assistant secretary of defense for Asian and Pacific Security Affairs by President Obama, serving from 2009 to 2011. He also served as acting assistant secretary of defense when the position was vacant for several months in 2011. On April 14, 2011, President Obama appointed Mitchell to be the first U.S. special representative and policy coordinator for Burma, with rank of ambassador.

 

A lifelong Democrat, Mitchell worked for the 1988 Democratic Presidential campaign of Michael Dukakis  as personnel firector for field operations in California. In 1992 he was logistics and operations manager of the United Democratic Campaign (Clinton-Gore; Senators Barbara Boxer & Dianne Feinstein) in California, for a field program with 20 offices. He has also contributed more than $9,000 to Democratic candidates and causes, including $1,500 to John Kerry’s 2004 presidential campaign, $4,600 to Barack Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign, and $2,500 to his 2012 presidential campaign.

 

Mitchell has been married since April 30, 2006 to Lee Hun-min (a.k.a. Min Lee), a Taiwanese reporter who has worked as a TV journalist in Hong Kong. An excellent pianist, Mitchell has played at social events in and around Washington, including public and private functions for Senator Edward Kennedy.

-Matt Bewig

 

Official Biography

Voice of America Interviews

Testimony Before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee (pdf)

Derek Mitchell to be Named Ambassador to Burma (by Josh Rogin, Foreign Policy)

US Burma Envoy Meets Aung San Suu Kyi (Voice of America)

Wikipedia

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Overview
Burma, also known as Myanmar, is a Buddhist nation of about 48 million people, two thirds of whom are Burmans. The other third of the population is divided amongst at least 135 ethnic groups, including the Shan, Karen, Rakhine, Mon and Kachin. There are about two million Christians and an equal number of Muslims. A military junta has ruled the country since 1962 and many of the ethnic minorities have been fighting against government forces ever since. There are one million internally displaced persons and 700,000 Burmese who are legal refugees in other countries, most of them in Thailand and Bangladesh. Another two million Burmese work in Thailand.
 
Burma is rich in hardwoods and accounts for 75% of the world trade in teak. It is also the world’s second-largest producer of illegal opium (behind Afghanistan). The US and other countries have imposed economic sanctions against Burma. However, some American companies have continued to do business with Burma, including large multi-national oil companies and jewelers.
 
Thanks to free education provided by Buddhist monks, Burma has a long history of literacy, particularly among boys and men. The military government has all but destroyed the nation’s intellectual tradition. In 2003-4, only 1.3% of the national budget was devoted to education. Less than one-third of girls now complete primary school and the high school graduation for boys and girls has dropped to 2%.
 
There is a saying in Burma that one must be wary of five evils: fire, water (storms and floods), thieves, mean people and…government.
 
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Basic Information

Lay of the Land: Burma is situated in Southeast Asia and includes the valleys of the Irrawaddy, Sittang, and Salween rivers and the west coast of the northern Malay Archipelago. Mountains, the highest of which reaches 19,000 feet, rim the country on the north, east, and west, while other ranges divide the major river valleys, which hold most of the population.

 
Population: 47.8 million
 
Religions: Buddhist (predominantly Theravada) 74.1%, Ethnoreligious 11.0%, Christian 7.1%, Muslim 3.8%, Hindu 1.7%, Confucianist 1.5%, Chinese Universalist 0.3%, Baha'i 0.2%, non-religious 0.5%.
 
Ethnic Groups: Burman 68%, Shan 95, Karen 7%, Rakhine 4%, Chinese 3%, Indian 2%, Mon 2%, other 5%.
 
Languages: Burmese (official) 74.9%, Shan 7.5%, Karen (e.g. Zayein, Yintale, Paku, Lahta, Brek, Geba...) 7.2%, Jingpho 2.1%, Yangbye 1.9%, Mon 1.7%, Arakanese 1.7%, Palaung (Pale, Rumai, Shwe) 1.3%, Wa 1.3%, Tavoyan 0.9%, Akha 0.5%, . There are 108 living languages in Burma.
 

 

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History
Beginning in about 800 AD, the Burmans migrated from Eastern Tibet into the lowlands of present-day Burma. The Mon people were already settled in the fertile coastal area and the Shan were living in the northeastern hills. King Anawrata established his capital at Pagan in the 11th Century and was the first Burman king to promote Buddhism. He was also the first to build an empire. In 1057, he invaded the Mon kingdom in Lower Burma and captured monks and scholars, whom he brought to Pagan to teach Buddhism and to instruct village boys to read and write. In the late 13th Century, the Shan sought protection from the Mongol empire. The Mongol emperor, Kublai Khan, sent in a large armed force that completely destroyed the Burman kingdom. For the next 450 years, the region was plagued by a series of civil wars.
 
Beginning in 1753, a new Burmese kingdom began reuniting various states. The Burmans also raided Thailand and fought off two invasions by China’s Manchu Dynasty. In the early 19th Century, Burman forces moved west into Assam and ran into the British East India Company. European explorers and merchants had been around since the 16th Century, but this was the first time the Burmans seriously clashed with the Europeans. What later came to be known as the First Burmese War broke out in 1824. British troops drove the Burmans out of Assam and then captured the coastal states of Arakan and Tenasserim. They continued up the Irrawaddy River until the Burmans surrendered. The Second Burmese War, in 1852-1853, ended with the British annexing Lower Burma. In 1878, King Thibaw attempted to lessen British influence by establishing trade relations with the French. The Third Burmese War began in 1885. The following year, the British annexed central and northern Burma, banished the king and his family to India and put an end to Burman rule, ruling Burma themselves as a province of British India.
 
To the British East India Company, Burma was basically a source of exploitable resources, in particular teak, oil, tin and rubies and other gems. They built railroads and roads and developed river transport to get at what they wanted, and they brought with them Indians to work as clerks and farmers. They also opened Burma to Indian and Chinese merchants.
 
The Great Depression of 1929 in the US reached Burma the following year. The price of rice plummeted and many Burmese farmers lost their land to Indian moneylenders. In 1931, anti-Indian and anti-Chinese riots broke because it was easier to attack the Indians and Chinese who had taken money and jobs from the Burmans than it was to attack the British who had created the policies that benefited the immigrants. The Burmans, however, did occasionally rise up and this resistance came to a head in the 1930s. In 1930, an ex-monk named Saya San led a revolt in which thousands of armed peasants attacked colonial offices. The British brutally suppressed the revolt, displaying the severed heads of rebellious peasants, 10,000 of whom they killed, and hanging Saya San.
 
But in February 1936, an incident occurred that, although less violent, was to prove a harbinger of major changes ahead. The student magazine at the University of Rangoon published an article that specifically criticized a school administrator. When the editors of the magazine refused to reveal the name of the author of the article, the university expelled the editor and the head of the student union. This led to student demonstrations that spread to colleges and high schools around the country. The student editor, only 21 years old at the time, was Aung San, who went on to become the leading military figure in Burma during World War II.
 
When Japan invaded Burma, Burmese nationalists, led by General Aung San, joined the Japanese forces in driving out the British. When the tide of the war turned against the Japanese, the Burmese Army switched sides and helped US and British forces take control of Burma. After WWII ended, Aung San managed to convince the British not to retake control of Burma, which paved the way for the country’s independence in 1948. Aung San was assassinated with most of his cabinet before a new constitution went into effect.
 
For the next 14 years, Burma endured widespread internal strife, owing to constitutional disputes and fighting between political and ethnic groups. This instability paved the way for Burma’s first military takeover, which took place in 1958 at the invitation of Prime Minister U Nu. The military stepped down after 18 months, but then in 1962 General Ne Win led a military coup and abolished the constitution. The junta established a xenophobic climate that distanced the country from the rest of the world, and it imposed socialist economic policies that did little to help the country.
 
In spite of its closed-off policies, Burma provided the United Nations with its third Secretary General, U Thant, during the 1960s. A close friend of former Prime Minister U Nu, U Thant served as Burma’s representative to the UN and eventually succeeded Secretary General Dag Hammarskjöld after he died in a plane crash. U Thant served as the UN’s top official during the Cuban Missile Crisis and the civil war in the Congo, stepping down in 1971.
 
By March 1988, the economy was so bad that students took to the streets to protest. The military and police cracked down on the demonstrators, killing more than a 1,000 at one demonstration alone. At a rally following this massacre, Aung San Suu Kyi, the daughter of Aung San, made her first political speech and assumed the role of opposition leader. It wasn’t long before the junta placed her under house arrest.
 
In September, the military deposed Ne Win’s Burmese Socialist Program Party and established a new ruling junta called the State Law and Order Restoration Council (SLORC). The SLORC sent the army into the streets to suppress the ongoing public demonstrations. An estimated additional 3,000 were killed, and more than 10,000 students fled the cities.
 
The SLORC ruled by martial law until parliamentary elections were held in May 1990. Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD) party won 392 of the 485 seats, even though their leader was still under house arrest. However, the SLORC refused to honor the results and instead imprisoned many political activists. The following year, Aung San Suu Kyi was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. Her son, Alexander, accepted the prize on behalf of all the Burmese people.
 
The ruling junta changed its name to the State Peace and Development Council (SPDC) in 1997, but did not change its policy of autocratic control and repression of the democratic opposition. It continued to subject Aung San Suu Kyi to varying forms of detention and other restrictions on her movement, which it periodically lifted only to reinstate them later.
 
At the beginning of this decade, political conditions showed some signs of improving. The SPDC began talks with Aung San Suu Kyi and her supporters. These talks were followed by the release of political prisoners and some increase in political freedoms for the NLD. In May 2002, Aung San Suu Kyi was allowed to leave her home and travel throughout the country, where she was greeted by large crowds. But in May 2003, Aung San Suu Kyi and a convoy of her supporters were attacked by a group that was linked to the junta. Many members of the convoy were killed or injured, and others disappeared. Aung San Suu Kyi and other members of her party were detained, and the military government forcibly closed the offices of the NLD. Aung San Suu Kyi returned to house arrest.
 
Following a sharp increase in fuel prices in August 2007, pro-democracy groups began a series of peaceful marches and demonstrations to protest the deteriorating economic situation in Burma. The junta arrested more than 150 activists in response. Then, Buddhist monks became involved in rallies, garnering international attention. In September, security forces attacked demonstrations by monks, triggering outrage throughout the world.
 
In May 2008, Burma was struck by Cyclone Nargis, which caused widespread flooding and killed thousands. Foreign governments and the UN offered to help, but the junta was slow to embrace the offers, leading to more suffering in parts of the country. Outside experts estimated that as many as 100,000 people may have died as a result of the storm and the lack of help caused by the junta.
 
Despite the devastation wreaked by the cyclone, the junta decided to carry out a referendum on a new constitution. The referendum was rife with irregularities, according to the US State Department. Nevertheless, the junta announced that 92.5% of voters approved the constitution, with a 98% voter turnout.
 
History of Burma (Wikipedia)
History of Burma (World-Wide Web Library)
Brief History of Burma (by Thomas R. Lansner, UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism)
Brief History (Campaigning for Human Rights and Democracy in Burma)
History of Burma (Canadian Friends of Burma)
Burma Cyclone (BBC News)
Drugs problem in Burma and Drug Trafficking in Mon Areas (Human Rights Foundation of Monland)
 

 

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Burma (Myanmar)'s Newspapers
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History of U.S. Relations with Burma (Myanmar)

The United States has not been deeply involved with Burma since World War II, when the American military worked with the British to battle Japanese forces occupying the country. After the war, Burma accepted foreign assistance to help rebuild the country. However, American support for Chinese Nationalists, who utilized the China-Burma border in their fight against Mao Zedong’s Communist forces, caused a strain in US-Burma relations. This lead to Burma’s decision to stop accepting most foreign aid and its refusal to join the South-East Asia Treaty Organization (SEATO), which the United States pushed to help stem the advance of socialist movements in Southeast Asia.

 
The United States downgraded its level of representation in Burma from ambassador to Chargé d'Affaires after the government’s crackdown on the democratic opposition in 1988 and its failure to honor the results of the 1990 parliamentary election.
The Burma Campaign 1941-1945 (by Michael Hickey, BBC)
 
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Current U.S. Relations with Burma (Myanmar)

The relationship between the US and Burma worsened after the 1988 military coup and the violent suppression of pro-democracy demonstrations. Subsequent repression, including the brutal crackdown on peaceful protestors in September 2007, further strained relations.

 
In 2003 Congress adopted the Burma Freedom and Democracy Act (BFDA), which banned all imports from Burma and exports of financial services to Burma, froze the assets of certain Burmese financial institutions, and extended visa restrictions on Burmese officials. Congress has renewed the BFDA annually, most recently in July 2008.
 
Since September 27, 2007, the Treasury Department has blocked the assets of 25 senior Burmese government officials under Executive Order 13310. On October 19, 2007, President George W. Bush announced a new Executive Order (E.O. 13348) which expanded the authority to block assets to individuals who are responsible for human rights abuses and public corruption, as well as those who provide material and financial support to the regime. Other names were added to the targeted sanctions list in November 2007 and in February and March 2008. On April 30, 2008, the President issued Executive Order 13464 (PDF), blocking all property owned by the government of Burma or its officials.
 
Due to the government’s violations of religious freedom, the US has designated Burma a Country of Particular Concern (CPC) under the International Religious Freedom Act. Burma is also designated a Tier 3 Country in the Trafficking in Persons Report for its use of forced labor.
 
There are reportedly 7,196 Burmese currently living in the US. Immigration from Burma to the US was limited before the passage of the Immigration Act of 1965, which roughly coincided with the flight of students and intellectuals from Burma during the military takeover of 1962. Most Burmese settled in large cities such as Chicago, New York, Los Angeles and Washington DC.
 
In 2006 18,052 Americans visited Burma. Tourism has gradually increased since 2002, when 14,477 Americans traveled to Burma. Only 1,039 Burmese visited the US in 2006, up slightly from 760 in 2005.
 
Burma-US Relations (by Larry A. Niksch, Congressional Research Service) (PDF)
 
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Where Does the Money Flow

Due to the imposition of economic sanctions, the US has cutoff imports from Burma since 2003. However, loopholes in US law have allowed US jewelers to import precious stones, such as rubies and jade, from Burma through third-party countries. A few jewelry retailers, notably Tiffany & Co. and Leber Jewelers, have long refused to purchase gems of Burmese origin. In October 2007, the Jewelers of America, an industry association, asked Congress to fully ban Burmese gems and encouraged its 11,000 members to halt purchases of these gems until democratic reforms take place in Burma. In July 2008, Congress attempted to close the loophole in federal law by requiring US retailers to keep records detailing the origin of rubies and jade and to prove they did not come from Burma.

 
US trade barriers also have not entirely shut off the flow of exports to Burma, although in total, sales from the US amounted only to $8.7 million in 2007. The largest exports were animal feeds ($1.6 million) and household goods ($1.4 million).
 
Furthermore, a few US companies continue to do business in Burma, according to human rights organizations. Baker Hughes, based in Houston, TX, is a supplier of products and services to the oil and natural gas industry that has offices in Rangoon. Oil giant Chevron has been one of the joint venture partners developing the Yadana offshore gas field in Burma, which earns the military regime millions of dollars. Chevron owns Unocal, which was the focus of a lawsuit by EarthRights International in 1996 on behalf of Burmese villagers who had been forced to work on the Yadana gas pipeline project and who had experienced rape and murder at the hands of the Burmese military. In a landmark ruling in June 2004, the US Supreme Court ruled 6-3 that the Alien Tort Claims Act could be used by foreigners to file lawsuits in the United States about abuses committed abroad. It was the first time that a US multinational corporation was held accountable under US law for its foreign investment decisions and activities abroad. In December 2004, Unocal settled the suits that had been filed in both California and federal courts.
 
According to the State Department, the US gave $13 million in aid to Burma in 2007. The budget allotted the most funds to Humanitarian Assistance: Protection, Assistance and Solutions ($5.7 million), Civil Society ($3.5 million), Health ($2.1 million), and Education ($1.5 million). The 2008 budget estimate increased aid to $15.7 million, and the 2009 budget is set for $15.9 million. The 2009 budget will distribute the most aid to Humanitarian Assistance: Protection, Assistance and Solutions ($6.2 million), Civil Society ($4.5 million), Health ($2.1 million), and Rule of Law and Human Rights ($1.6 million). Humanitarian assistance provides food, education and medical care to the 500,000 displaced people and 140,000 refugees residing in Thailand.
 
US: Burma Gem Ban Strengthened (Human Rights Watch)
The “Dirty List” of Companies (Campaigning for Human Rights and Democracy in Burma)
 
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Controversies
McCain Convention Chair Steps Down After Burma Connections Revealed
Republican presidential nominee John McCain’s choice for managing the GOP convention was forced to resign in May 2008 after his connection to the Burma junta became public. Doug Goodyear, lobbyist and CEO of the DCI Group, a consulting firm that earned $3 million lobbying for ExxonMobil, General Motors and other clients, was paid $348,000 in 2002 to represent the military regime in Rangoon, which had been strongly condemned by the State Department for its human-rights record. Justice Department lobbying records showed DCI pushed to “begin a dialogue of political reconciliation” with the regime. It also led a public relations campaign to burnish the junta’s image, drafting press releases praising Burma’s efforts to curb the drug trade and denouncing “falsehoods” by the Bush administration that the regime engaged in rape and other abuses.
 
Cyclone Aid Lands in Burma, Drawing Controversy
Following a deadly cyclone in May 2008, the US pledged an additional $13 million in aid, bringing the total to $16.25 million. As the first American planes touched down in Burma, US officials hoped that relief flights approved by the ruling military junta would forge a relationship that would allow the US to send in disaster experts to help. The junta said that it would distribute the supplies as it saw fit, which drew comments from UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon, calling on the junta to “put its people’s lives first.”
 
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Human Rights

According to the State Department, Burma’s human rights record has only gotten worse over the years. Among the many reported problems are government security forces killing demonstrators, allowing custodial deaths to occur and other extrajudicial killings, disappearances, rape and torture. US officials report, “In addition, regime‑sponsored, mass-member organizations such as the Union Solidarity and Development Association (USDA) and regime-backed ‘private’ militias increasingly engaged in harassment, abuse, and detention of human rights and pro-democracy activists. The government continued to detain civic activists indefinitely and without charges, including more than 3,000 persons suspected of taking part in pro-democracy demonstrations in September and October (2007), at least 300 members of the National League for Democracy (NLD), and at least 15 members of the 88 Generation Students prodemocracy activists.

 
“The government continued to prohibit the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) from working unhindered in conflict areas and visiting prisoners privately. The army continued its attacks on ethnic minority villagers in Bago Division and Karen and Shan states to drive them from their traditional land. The government abused prisoners and detainees, held persons in harsh and life‑threatening conditions, routinely used incommunicado detention, and imprisoned citizens arbitrarily for political motives. NLD General Secretary Aung San Suu Kyi and NLD Vice Chairman Tin Oo remained under house arrest. The government routinely infringed on citizens’ privacy and restricted freedom of speech, press, assembly, association, religion, and movement. The government did not allow domestic human rights nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) to function independently, and international NGOs encountered a difficult environment. Violence and societal discrimination against women continued, as did recruitment of child soldiers, discrimination against ethnic minorities, and trafficking in persons, particularly of women and girls. Workers’ rights remained restricted. Forced labor, including that of children, also persisted. The government took no significant actions to prosecute or punish those responsible for human rights abuses.
 
“Ethnic armed groups allegedly committed human rights abuses, including forced labor, although to a much lesser extent than the government. Some cease‑fire groups also reportedly committed abuses, including forced relocation of villagers in their home regions. Armed insurgent groups and cease‑fire groups also recruited child soldiers.”
 
Things that are Illegal in Burma—
·        According to the 1950 Emergency Provisions Act, which is still in force, it is illegal to engage in an act that “causes or intends to disrupt the morality or behavior of a group of people or the general public,” punishable by seven years in prison. It is also illegal to make a written or verbal statement that could “cause misunderstanding among the people.”
·        In 1997, MP-elect Dr. Tin Min Htut was charged with violating the 1947 Foreign Currency Exchange Act because his son was caught playing with two coins from Singapore in a tin cup.
·        James Nichols, the honorary consul representing Scandinavia, died in prison in 1996 while serving three years for unauthorized use of a fax machine.
·        After the 2004 arrest of Khin Nyunt, one of his spokesmen, Col. Hla Min, was charged with possession of a service revolver and “living beyond his means.”
·        In 1996, Burmese dictator Than Shwe issued an order making it illegal, subject to 20 years’ imprisonment, to criticize the National Convention in charge of creating a new constitution or to draft an independent version of a constitution.
·        In December 2004, NLD members were prosecuted for failing to register overnight guests and sentenced to seven years in prison.
·        Fourteen NLD members were arrested on December 6, 2004, for “conspiring to celebrate the National Day” without permission.
·        In October 1997, MP-elect Dr. May Win Myint was sentenced to seven years in prison for traveling with Aung San Suu Kyi inside Rangoon. After he completed his sentence, he was kept in prison anyway.
·        A video shop in Sittwe, in Arakan State, was raided in January 2005 and the shop owners were arrested and fined for renting out tapes of the December 26, 2004. tsunami and its aftermath. The tapes were copies of news broadcasts from CNN and the BBC.
·        In February 2005, the magazine Han Thit (New Style) was suspended for two months for carrying an advertisement that mentioned St. Valentine’s Day.
·        The current affairs magazine Khit-Sann was closed down in September 2004 for being too “pro-American.”
·        In November 2003, three men were sentenced to death for charges that included possessing the business card of an officer of the International Labor Organization (ILO) and possessing ILO documents. Two of the three were released after 14 months.
·        In 2004, numerous people were arrested for “hiding in the dark,” including some who were seized in broad daylight.
·        On January 19, 2004, 26 monks were sentenced to eighteen years in prison for refusing to accept donations from military authorities.
·        In December 2003, Ko Thet Lwin, a 46-year-old man employed by the Canadian firm Ivanhoe Mines Ltd., was sentenced to seven years in prison for accompanying a foreign colleague to the home of Aung San Suu Kyi.
·        Women caught possessing a condom can be charged with prostitution. Abortions are illegal (although approximately 750,000 are performed each year).
·        In September 2004, four Rohingya Muslims were given sentences of five years for repairing a village mosque.
·        In July 2003, Zaw Thet Htwe, the editor of a sports magazine, was arrested after he wrote an article questioning the government’s use of a $4 million grant to develop football (soccer. He was charged with plotting to assassinate military officials and sentenced to death. After a year and a half of international pressure, he was released.
·        In September 2004, in Ye Township, the Thein Kabar Tea Shop was fined for “creating conflict” by playing the Burmese version of BBC radio’s World Service.
·        In June 2004, the government declared it against the law to possess a CD of the Burmese exile hip-hop group Myanmar Future Generation (MFG).
 
 
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Debate
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Past Ambassadors

J. Klahr Huddle
Title: Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary
Appointment: Oct 17, 1947
Presentation of Credentials: Mar 3, 1948
Termination of Mission: Relinquished charge, Nov 28, 1949
Note: Commissioned during a recess of the Senate; recommissioned after confirmation on Dec 9, 1947.

David McK. Key
Title: Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary
Appointment: Mar 17, 1950
Presentation of Credentials: Apr 26, 1950
Termination of Mission: Left post, Oct 28, 1951

William J. Sebald
Title: Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary
Appointment: Apr 25, 1952
Presentation of Credentials: Jul 18, 1952
Termination of Mission: Left post, Jul 15, 1954

Joseph C. Satterthwaite
Title: Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary
Appointment: Apr 4, 1955
Presentation of Credentials: May 10, 1955
Termination of Mission: Left post, Apr 1, 1957

Walter P. McConaughy
Title: Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary
Appointment: May 20, 1957
Presentation of Credentials: Aug 20, 1957
Termination of Mission: Left post, Nov 2, 1959

William P. Snow
Title: Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary
Appointment: Nov 9, 1959
Presentation of Credentials: Dec 1, 1959
Termination of Mission: Left post, May 4, 1961
Note: Commissioned during a recess of the Senate; recommissioned after
confirmation on Jan 21, 1960.

John S. Everton
Title: Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary
Appointment: May 4, 1961
Presentation of Credentials: Jun 10, 1961
Termination of Mission: Left post, May 21, 1963
Note: Commissioned to the Socialist Republic of the Union of Burma.

Henry A. Byroade
Title: Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary
Appointment: Sep 10, 1963
Presentation of Credentials: Oct 7, 1963
Termination of Mission: Left post, Jun 11, 1968

Arthur W. Hummel, Jr.
Title: Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary
Appointment: Sep 26, 1968
Presentation of Credentials: Oct. 1968
Termination of Mission: Left post, Jul 22, 1971

Edwin W. Martin
Title: Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary
Appointment: Aug 10, 1971
Presentation of Credentials: Oct 1, 1971
Termination of Mission: Left post, Nov 20, 1973

David L. Osborn
Title: Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary
Appointment: Feb 28, 1974
Presentation of Credentials: Mar 22, 1974
Termination of Mission: Left post, Jul 25, 1977
Note: Commissioned to the Socialist Republic of the Union of Burma.

Maurice Darrow Bean
Title: Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary
Appointment: Sep 19, 1977
Presentation of Credentials: Nov 8, 1977
Termination of Mission: Left post, Aug 10, 1979
Note: Commissioned to the Socialist Republic of the Union of Burma.

Patricia M. Byrne
Title: Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary
Appointment: Nov 27, 1979
Presentation of Credentials: Jan 14, 1980
Termination of Mission: Left post, Sep 14, 1983
Note: Commissioned to the Socialist Republic of the Union of Burma.

Daniel Anthony O'Donohue
Title: Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary
Appointment: Nov 14, 1983
Presentation of Credentials: Dec 26, 1983
Termination of Mission: Left post, Dec 16, 1986
Note: Commissioned to the Socialist Republic of the Union of Burma.

Burton Levin
Title: Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary
Appointment: Apr 7, 1987
Presentation of Credentials: May 26, 1987
Termination of Mission: Left post, Sep 30, 1990
Note: Commissioned to the Socialist Republic of the Union of Burma.

Note: The following officers served as Chargé d'Affaires ad interim:

Franklin P. Huddle, Jr. (Sep 1990-Sep 1994)
Marilyn Meyers (Sep 1994- Oct 1996).

Frederick Vreeland
Title: Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary
Note: Nomination not acted upon by the Senate.

Parker W. Borg
Title: Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary
Note: Nomination of Jul 22, 1991, not acted upon by the Senate.
 
Note: The following officers served as Chargé d'Affaires ad interim:
Kent M. Wiedemann (Oct 1996-May 1999)
Priscilla A. Clapp (Jul 1999- Aug 2002)
Carmen Maria Martinez (Aug 2002-2005) 
 
 
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Burma (Myanmar)'s Ambassador to the U.S.
ambassador-image Kyaw, Myo Htut

 

Kyaw Myo Htut presented his credentials as ambassador to the United States from Myanmar (formerly Burma) on December 3, 2013. It’s the second ambassadorial posting for Kyaw, who until 2008 was a soldier in his country’s armed forces.

 

Kyaw was born in 1957, and spent part of his childhood in Washington when his father was military attaché in the Burnese embassy. Kyaw joined his country’s military in 1981 and worked his way up, eventually rising to the rank of colonel. He graduated from his country’s Defense Services Academy with a master’s degree in defense studies in 2006.

 

In 2008, Kyaw was plucked from the army and put into his country’s foreign ministry. He didn’t wait long for a big assignment; he was sent that year to Geneva, Switzerland, as Burma’s deputy permanent representative to the United Nations mission there. Kyaw was put in the position of defending his government against European Union criticisms of its treatment of Nobel Peace Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyu.

 

Kyaw was named ambassador to the United Kingdom in 2011. While in that post, he played a role in getting most European Union sanctions against Burma for its human rights violations lifted. During his assignment to the Court of St. James, Kyaw was also accredited as ambassador to Sweden and Norway. He left London upon being named to the Washington job.

 

As ambassador to the United States, a big part of Kyaw’s job is to push for more U.S. investment in his country despite continuing human rights problems.

 

Kyaw is married to Khin Myint Kyi.

-Steve Straehley

 

To Learn More:

Former Military Man Becomes Myanmar’s Reluctant Ambassador (by Larry Luxner, Washington Diplomat)

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Burma (Myanmar)'s Embassy Web Site in the U.S.
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U.S. Ambassador to Burma (Myanmar)

Mitchell, Derek
ambassador-image

There is a saying in Burma that one must be wary of five evils:  fire, water (storms and floods), thieves, mean people and…government. The military junta that has ruled Burma (which it renamed as “Myanmar”) since 1962, has been one of the most repressive of recent decades. After opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi’s party swept to victory in a September 1990 election, the junta simply cancelled the results of the election. In response, the U.S. downgraded its level of representation in Burma from ambassador to chargé d’affaires, and Suu Kyi was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1991.

 

However, in recognition of recent elections and other tiny moves toward democracy in Burma, on April 6, 2012, President Obama announced his intent to nominate Derek J. Mitchell, who is currently American special envoy to Burma, to be the first U.S. ambassador to Burma since ambassador Burton Levin left in September 1990.

 

Mitchell was born September 16, 1964, in Atlanta, Georgia, to Charlotte (née Mendelsohn) and Dr. Malcolm S. Mitchell, an academic medical oncologist and tumor immunologist, while his father was serving in the U.S. Public Health Service. The family settled in Orange, Connecticut, a suburb of New Haven, where Derek Mitchell grew up. He earned a B.A. in Foreign Affairs, with a concentration in Soviet Studies, at the University of Virginia in 1986, and an M.A. in Law and Diplomacy at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy of Tufts University in 1991, earning a certificate for proficiency in Mandarin Chinese.

 

In the years between graduating in Charlottesville and matriculating at Tufts, Mitchell worked as a Senate aide and a journalist in Taiwan. He served as an aide to Senator Edward M. Kennedy (D-Massachusetts) from 1986 to 1988, working as assistant to senior foreign policy adviser Gregory Craig, who was later White House counsel for President Barack Obama.

 

Mitchell started studying Chinese while working in Taipei as a copy editor at The China Post (then Taiwan’s largest English-language daily) from December 1988 to June 1989, and continued his study of Chinese at Nanjing (China) University in the summer of 1990.

 

From 1993 to 1997, Mitchell worked at the National Democratic Institute (NDI), an organization funded since 1983 by the National Endowment for Democracy to channel U.S. money to “pro-democracy” groups that are also friendly to U.S. policy in developing nations. He was senior program officer, first for Asia, from 1993 to 1996, and then to the former Soviet Union from 1996 to 1997.

 

From 2001 to 2009 he was a senior fellow, director for Asia, and director of the Southeast Asia Initiative, at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), in Washington, D.C. He established CSIS’s first dedicated Southeast Asian studies program, and in 2008-2009 led a study on the future of U.S. relations with Thailand, Philippines, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore and Vietnam. His 2007 article in Foreign Affairs, co-authored with Michael Green, has been credited with prefiguring the Obama administration’s new policy toward Burma, whose apparent early success has led to Mitchell’s nomination to be ambassador to Burma. During this time, Mitchell was also a visiting scholar, from April to June 2007, at Peking University’s School of International Studies.

 

Mitchell was appointed principal deputy assistant secretary of defense for Asian and Pacific Security Affairs by President Obama, serving from 2009 to 2011. He also served as acting assistant secretary of defense when the position was vacant for several months in 2011. On April 14, 2011, President Obama appointed Mitchell to be the first U.S. special representative and policy coordinator for Burma, with rank of ambassador.

 

A lifelong Democrat, Mitchell worked for the 1988 Democratic Presidential campaign of Michael Dukakis  as personnel firector for field operations in California. In 1992 he was logistics and operations manager of the United Democratic Campaign (Clinton-Gore; Senators Barbara Boxer & Dianne Feinstein) in California, for a field program with 20 offices. He has also contributed more than $9,000 to Democratic candidates and causes, including $1,500 to John Kerry’s 2004 presidential campaign, $4,600 to Barack Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign, and $2,500 to his 2012 presidential campaign.

 

Mitchell has been married since April 30, 2006 to Lee Hun-min (a.k.a. Min Lee), a Taiwanese reporter who has worked as a TV journalist in Hong Kong. An excellent pianist, Mitchell has played at social events in and around Washington, including public and private functions for Senator Edward Kennedy.

-Matt Bewig

 

Official Biography

Voice of America Interviews

Testimony Before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee (pdf)

Derek Mitchell to be Named Ambassador to Burma (by Josh Rogin, Foreign Policy)

US Burma Envoy Meets Aung San Suu Kyi (Voice of America)

Wikipedia

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