Trump Appoints Policy Specialist on Myanmar to UN Job

By The Irrawaddy 23 June 2017

YANGON — US President Donald Trump has appointed longtime Myanmar and Asia policy specialist Kelley Currie to be the US representative on the Economic and Social Council of the UN, with the rank of ambassador.

Currie is a senior fellow with the Project 2049 Institute, a think-tank focusing on Asia policy. She was a founder of the institute’s Burma Transition Initiative which includes a project to promote the reintegration of former Myanmar political prisoners into society. Chin civil society activist Cheery Zahau is listed on the Project 2049 website as the organization’s country program director in Myanmar.

Currie previously held senior policy positions with the US Department of State and worked for the International Republican Institute and other international and non-government organizations, often on rights and policy issues related to Myanmar and Tibet.

She also served as foreign policy adviser for Republican congressman John Porter of Illinois.

In the new appointment with the Trump administration, she will become, in addition, the alternate representative of the US to sessions of the UN General Assembly.

Currie’s background as a Republican party-linked advocate for human rights in Myanmar contrasts with an earlier Trump appointment with links to the country.

Last year Trump named former lobbyist Jim Murphy as his political director. Murphy worked with the lobbying firm the DCI Group from 2002 to 2012, first as managing partner and then as president.

The firm was hired in 2002 to work for the then Myanmar military government, with part of its remit to counter allegations that the military was responsible for more than 100 rapes of ethnic minority women. The allegations were made in a report jointly released by the Shan Women’s Action Network and the Shan Human Rights Foundation titled “License to Rape” and were vehemently denied by the then government.

Last year, the Daily Beast website reported that Kelley Currie said the report “had enormous significance.”

“It was the first, most authoritative report on that,” she told the website. “It was so comprehensive—it was so well-researched, to an international standard in terms of human rights research—that it led the State Department to conduct their own investigation of the charges.” That probe corroborated the Shan groups’ findings.

In 2017, Myanmar is back on the UN’s radar in relation to similar allegations of grave human rights abuses. In May the UN named the members of a fact-finding missing to investigate alleged serious abuses, including killings and rape, by security forces in Rakhine State and northern Myanmar. The National League for Democracy-led government has rejected the mission.

“It will not help solve the problems Myanmar is facing in Rakhine State … We are ready to work with the international community on any advice or arrangements should they constitute part of the solution, not part of the problem,” ambassador to the UN in Geneva U Htin Lynn said earlier this month.

The UN’s Economic and Social Council is focused on international economic and social policies, including international development cooperation. One of its key missions is the promotion of sustainable development.