A statement of Canadian Friends of Burma [Ottawa – April 20, 2011 5PM E.T]
On April 19, 2011, Governor General David Johnston accepted the credentials of U Kyaw Tin, Burma’s newly-appointed ambassador to Canada. U Kyaw Tin’s appointment is the first since Burma’s military regime formed a new government based on its revised Constitution of 2008 and subsequent elections in 2010. The immediate question is whether the Burmese Ambassador will have the authority to advocate Canadian viewpoints with regime leaders at home.
“Canada is hopeful that the mutual accreditation of our Ambassadors will provide us with more opportunities to communicate our key interests and concerns,” David Johnston, the Governor General of Canada, said in his speech during the presentation of credentials at Rideau Hall.
“Canada looks forward to engaging with you on important issues of human rights, democratic development, and the rule of law during your tenure as Ambassador. These issues are of fundamental importance to Canada, both at home and abroad,” he added.
For the past six years, Burma has not had an Ambassador in Canada. The last Ambassador, U Tin Win, was recalled to Burma in 2004, following the arrest of the Chief of Intelligence, Gen. Khin Nyunt, and the dismantlement of the intelligence apparatus.
U Kyaw Tin, the new Ambassador, is known as a career diplomat who has served in the foreign affairs services for approximately 30 years and recently served as the Director General of the political department of Burmese Foreign Affairs Ministry. He was once posted to the Burmese Embassy in Ottawa before.
“We will have to wait and see if he can address the pro-democracy movement’s demands for the release of 2,200 political prisoners in Burma and concerns on gross human rights violations including military offensives against the ethnic minorities in Burma,” said Tin Maung Htoo, Executive Director of Canadian Friends of Burma.
“CFOB believes that the main purpose of the Burma 2010 elections was to entrench military rule in the country and not to bring democracy, security and national reconciliation as proned by the military rulers. Therefore, CFOB is not in a position to relax its continuous campaigns including the existing Canadian economic sanctions towards the Burmese regime until and unless our demands and concerns are met,” he added.
Canada-Burma relations were established in 1958. With the exception of a few years during the 1980s, Burma has maintained a permanent diplomatic mission in Ottawa ever since. Canadian diplomats with responsibility for Burma have operated from the Canadian High Commissions in Malaysia and Bangladesh and more recently from the Canadian Embassy in Thailand.