A new US envoy to Myanmar kicked off his first trip to the country today as part of Washington’s strategy of engagement with the army-dominated nation.
Derek Mitchell, who was appointed as the first US coordinator for policy on Myanmar last month, began the visit by meeting foreign minister Wunna Maung Lwin in the capital Naypyidaw.
He is then scheduled to see a variety of other senior figures including speakers in the parliament — formed after last November’s controversial elections — before returning to Yangon on Saturday.
Mitchell, a veteran policymaker on Asia, will meet democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi on Monday, according to her spokesman Nyan Win.
In his Senate confirmation hearing in June, Mitchell said he would seek “direct and candid” dialogue with Myanmar’s leaders but that the United States should be flexible in its approach.
His post was created when Congress, under then-president George W. Bush, approved a law on Myanmar in 2008 that tightened sanctions against the country, but the position was not filled at the time due to a political dispute.
After taking power in 2009 President Barack Obama’s administration changed tack, concluding that the sanctions aimed at isolating Myanmar had been ineffective.
Mitchell is also set to meet party leaders in Yangon, including representatives from the National Democratic Force (NDF), which split with Suu Kyi’s party to contest the election.
The isolated nation’s nominally civilian government has recently appeared to be seeking to improve its image by reaching out to critics such as Suu Kyi, who last month met President Thein Sein, a former general, for the first time.