The Irrawaddy

Former Ambassador to Myanmar to Lead National Democratic Institute

YANGON — A former US ambassador to Myanmar has become the new president of an international nonprofit working to support and strengthen democracy around the world through citizen participation, and openness and accountability in government.

The Washington-based National Democratic Institute (NDI) announced on Thursday that Derek Mitchell, who served in Myanmar from 2012-16, was approved by the institute’s board of directors as president.

NDI Chairwoman Madeleine K. Albright said she was confident that the former ambassador would guide the organization with boundless energy and clear vision for many years to come.

“Throughout his varied and stellar career, Derek has been an innovator, a successful leader, and an eloquent advocate for improved governance and larger freedom. No one grasps better than he the intimate connection between the health of democracy abroad and the security of America at home,” she said.

The chairwoman used to be a US Secretary of State and traveled to Myanmar in 1995. During her first visit, Albright delivered tough talk to Myanmar’s generals, warning that the country would face continued isolation if the leaders of the military junta at the time did not take steps toward greater political freedom and democracy for Burmese people. She met in 1995 with military intelligence leader Lt-Gen Khin Nyunt and other government officials, as well as Daw Aung San Suu Kyi.

As the NDI chairman, Albright visited Myanmar again in 2013 and met again with the Nobel Peace Laureate as well as political parties, stating that the NDI was willing to assist the country in its ongoing transition to democracy.

Prior to Myanmar’s 2015 parliamentary elections, which saw Daw Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy party win a landslide victory, the NDI supported the formation of the country’s first citizen election observer group, the People’s Alliance for Credible Elections, to mobilize over 5,000 citizen monitors throughout the country.

In 2012, Derek Mitchell became the first US Ambassador to Myanmar in two decades after Washington appointed a lower level diplomat to the Southeast Asian country after its military regime cracked down on the country’s democracy movement.

Prior to his appointment in Myanmar, he was the special US representative and policy coordinator for Burma and was a key player in implementing the Obama administration’s Burma policy.