US hopes Richardson’s mission to Myanmar yields results

US hopes Richardson's mission to Myanmar yields results

WASHINGTON (AP) – The Biden administration said Monday it welcomes former US Ambassador to the United Nations Bill Richardson’s private mission to Myanmar as a possible way to expedite humanitarian access to the country.

The State Department said Richardson is making the trip on his own, but hopes he can help convince the Myanmar leadership to allow much-needed assistance in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic and other urgent needs.

“Governor Richardson has extensive experience in humanitarian affairs,” the department said. “While this event is not sponsored or on behalf of the United States government, we hope his trip will help improve humanitarian access.”

“The humanitarian and health needs in Burma are enormous,” the message said, using another name for Myanmar. “We continue to call on the military regime to end the violence, release unjustly detainees, allow unhindered humanitarian access and ensure the safety of medical and humanitarian workers.”

The former UN envoy and governor of New Mexico announced Sunday that he is heading to Myanmar for a visit that will focus on supporting the pandemic. “In times of crisis and instability like this, we must ensure that humanitarian aid is delivered to those who need it most,” he said.

Myanmar has been mired in violence and civil unrest since the military coup that took over in February. The protesters were beaten and arrested. Since February, security forces have killed more than 1,200 people, including at least 131 detainees tortured to death.

Richardson said his center, the Richardson Center, has a long history of involvement in Myanmar, but did not mention the coup in his travel announcement and did not mention in detail who he planned to meet while there. UN Secretary General António Guterres was aware of the mission, Richardson spokeswoman Madeleine Mahoney said.

Mahoney declined to say if Richardson will also work to free US journalist Danny Fenster, who has been in jail in Myanmar since May 24. Fenster was detained at Yangon International Airport as he was about to board a flight to the United States. He is the Managing Editor of Frontier Myanmar, an online magazine based in Yangon, Myanmar’s largest city.

Fenster was charged with incitement, also known as incitement to mutiny, for allegedly spreading false or inflammatory information. The offense is punishable by up to three years’ imprisonment.

Richardson last visited Myanmar in 2018 to advise on the Rohingya crisis. He eventually left the international group formed to work on the findings of the previous commission after the military was accused of rape and murder of Rohingya Muslims in western Rakhine state. Myanmar denies the charges.