The US Embassy has denied reports that US Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor Tom Malinowski requested a visit to the Kachin State capital Myitkyina but was turned down by Burma’s government.
Sources in the Burmese capital Naypyidaw and Kachin activists told The Irrawaddy that Malinowski was informed that he could visit the Kachin jade mining town of Hpakant, but not Myitkyina. Kachin activists said they had invited the assistant secretary to the Kachin capital.
Malinowski is on a visit to Burma from June 22-28 and leads a delegation of senior US officials from the Departments of State, Defense, and Treasury to the Mon State capital Moulmein, the Karen State capital Hpa-An, Karen State, and to Rangoon and Naypyidaw. The assistant secretary was scheduled meet with government officials, ethnic leaders, civil society representatives and politicians, as well as senior Burma Army officers.
The US Embassy, however, denied the reports that the delegation had requested to visit Myitkyina. “We did not request permission from the government to travel to Kachin state,” an embassy spokesman told The Irrawaddy.
Malinowski “had a number of meetings on his schedule this trip that touched upon a host of issues, including ways for the US government to best support national reconciliation, and our engagement in supporting efforts by all parties to achieve a sustainable peace,” the official said.
Kachin State and northern Shan State has been wracked by conflict between the Kachin Independence Army and the Burma Army since mid-2011, and some 120,000 Kachin civilians remain displaced. Despite several rounds of ceasefire talks, fighting continues and in recent months there have been reports of fierce clashes close to the Burma-China border that have displaced more civilians.
The Kachin rebels have asked for US involvement in the ceasefire talks, but this has reportedly been met with resistance from China, which is reluctant to see the US engagement with groups close to its border.
Clarification: Changes were made to the headline and lead of this story on Monday June 30, to better reflect the US Embassy’s denial of the reports that Assistant Secretary of State Malinowski had requested a visit to Myitkyina.