US Ambassador to Burma Derek Mitchell hosted an event celebrating his nation’s independence in Mandalay for the first time in nearly 30 years, according to a press release from the US Embassy.
“I’m honored to be the first U.S. ambassador to host an Independence Day event at our Jefferson Center in Mandalay,” Mitchell said. “The Center, once the U.S. consulate, remains a symbol of our ties with the people of Upper Myanmar. More broadly, the event tonight is also a testament to the United States’ historic friendship with this country.”
Coming about two weeks ahead of the official US Independence Day celebration on July 4, the event was attended by nearly 200 people, including Mandalay government officials, civil society and political party leaders, and youth activists, according to the US Embassy’s Facebook page.
In remarks to attendees, Mitchell drew on the US Declaration of Independence to highlight two themes, democracy and equality.
“The Declaration proclaims, Everyone is born with and deserves equal rights to life, liberty, pursuit of happiness, but to make sure those rights are protected in reality, you need democracy, the people to rule,” he said.
“That’s the Declaration of Independence. And that’s what we celebrate today.”
US-Burma ties have seen a steady warming since the nominally civilian government of Burma President Thein Sein took power in 2011. The two nations’ diplomatic relations have ranged from frosty to nearly nonexistent for more than two decades, with Washington keeping the Southeast Asian nation at arms’ length in the face of a litany of human rights abuses perpetrated by Burma’s former military regime.
The United States appointed Mitchell to the post in June 2012, making him the first US ambassador to Burma in 22 years.