7 Jul 2012

Myanmar approves new US ambassador

11:33 am on 7 July 2012

Myanmar has approved the appointment of the first American ambassador in 22 years.

State media say he is Derek Mitchell, 47, an expert on Asian affairs who is President Barack Obama's special representative and policy co-ordinator for Myanmar.

His appointment marks a significant upgrading of diplomatic relations between the United States and Myanmar, which have been on the mend since political changes there.

The country held its first general election in two decades in November 2010, bringing to power a government led by the pro-military Union solidarity and Development Party.

President Thein Sein has initiated a host of political and economic reforms, including a dialogue with opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi that paved the way for her to enter mainstream politics.

Ms Suu Kyi and 42 members of her National League for Democracy party won seats in a by-election in April.

Shortly after the by-election both the United States and the European Union eased economic sanctions that had been imposed after the army cracked down on a pro-democracy movement in 1988, leaving an estimated 3,000 people dead.