Skip navigation

Statement of Dean James B. Steinberg concerning Dr. Karl Jackson’s recent trip to Myanmar

Statement of James B. Steinberg, Dean of the School of Advanced International Studies, Johns Hopkins University, concerning Dr. Karl Jackson’s recent trip to Myanmar

Press reports concerning Dr. Karl Jackson’s recent trip to Myanmar were of deep concern to me in light of the fact that the Myanmar official with whom he met, Thein Soe, the Chairman of the Union Election Commission, is a “specially designated national” under US sanctions (EO 14010) and more generally, because of the regime’s widespread human rights violations, including the violence against the Rohingya people, which is widely recognized as genocide. I reached out to Dr. Jackson to ascertain the facts surrounding his visit and to offer him an opportunity to explain his position. He provided the following statement.

“I am not now, nor have I ever been, a supporter of the military government in Myanmar.  The excesses of this regime are egregious and justifiably condemned.  As a scholar I wanted to interview people to understand whether the regime would be conducting elections, releasing political prisoners, and returning power to an elected civilian government. I had no idea that Thein Soe was personally sanctioned.  If I had known, I would not have talked with him. Obviously, I had no intention of legitimizing the military government and instead used my very limited comments in the meeting to push for free and fair elections, international observers, and freeing political prisoners.  I repudiate the spin put on the story by the regime. I did not endorse its position as the article falsely implied.  I regret any pain or embarrassment that I have caused.”

In designating Thein Soe, the US government noted that he is one of the “key members of Burma’s military regime, which is violently repressing the pro-democracy movement in the country and is responsible for the ongoing violent and lethal attacks against the people of Burma, including the killing of children.”  In a recent report to the UN Human Rights Council, the UN Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights in Myanmar, Thomas Andrews, observed “It was really important to work together to deny any claims of legitimacy of this military”. All of us at SAIS have a responsibility to consider the impact.

All of us at SAIS have a responsibility to consider the impact of our actions on the fundamental need to uphold internationally recognized human rights.


Tuesday, June 21, 2022