Asia expert confirmed as first Canadian ambassador to live in Myanmar

OTTAWA – The foreign affairs department has confirmed Canada’s choice for its first-ever resident ambassador to the burgeoning democracy of Myanmar.

Mark McDowell, who currently works in the Canadian embassy in China, has officially been named to the post.

His selection as the first Canadian ambassador to live in the country had previously been reported by media in Myanmar, formerly known as Burma.

Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird travelled to Myanmar last year to signal the restoration of diplomatic relations between the two countries.

He was followed by Trade Minister Ed Fast who declared Canada’s intention to increase economic ties with the resource-rich country.

Diplomatic and trade relations between Myanmar and Canada had previously been handled through Thailand, but a new Canadian embassy will open in Rangoon this year.

In addition to leading public diplomacy efforts for Canada in China, McDowell has served in New York City, Taipei and Bangkok.

He also spent a year at Harvard University, researching on contemporary issues in Myanmar.

The former military dictatorship has been evolving into a democratic state since late in 2010 when it held its first elections in almost 20 years.

In recent weeks, riots have broken out as Buddhist mobs attacked Muslims in several towns.

The country’s current president has said his government will use violence if necessary to stop them but Canada and other countries are urging a peaceful solution.