What can Biden do about the mutiny in Myanmar?

Avatar of Nick John By Nick John Dec9,2023 #Biden #Myanmar #What
What can Biden do about the mutiny in Myanmar? 3
What can Biden do about the mutiny in Myanmar? 3

In 2011, Myanmar’s military government began a process of democratic reform when it handed over power to a semi-civilian government led by former general Thein Sein, restoring many basic rights of citizens, including the removal of sanctions.

It marked a shift in openness in a country that had previously been relatively isolated from the outside world and had long been within China’s orbit of influence.

When Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD) party in November 2015 won a landslide victory in Myanmar’s first open election in 25 years, Ben Rhodes, foreign policy assistant

US President Joe Biden in the Oval Office, White House, January 28.

But Aung San Suu Kyi, who was arrested on January 2 after a military mutiny, quickly lost support from the West when she did nothing to stop or acknowledge the accusations of `massacre` by the military.

New US President Biden in a strong statement on February 1 warned that he would re-impose sanctions on Myanmar and steadfastly support democratic principles, like the promises he made during the campaign.

`America will fight for democracy wherever it is attacked,` Biden said, demanding that the Myanmar military `immediately relinquish the power they have just seized.`

However, Derek Mitchell, the first US ambassador to Myanmar after the country opened, said that Washington no longer enjoys the same advantageous leverage as before to pressure Myanmar’s military.

`I think the Rohingya crisis has basically brought everything back to square one. With good reason, obviously we need to speak up and fight genocide but it comes at the cost of relationships.`

Mitchell, currently president of the US National Democratic Institute, emphasized that the world needs to respect the overwhelming victory of Suu Kyi’s National League Party (NLD) in last year’s election.

According to him, Suu Kyi’s halo as a `global symbol of democracy` in the West has now faded, after her response to the Rohingya crisis.

`The problem is not in an individual, but in the whole process,` Mitchell emphasized.

Suzanne DiMaggio, senior expert at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, said that the Biden administration should not immediately impose sanctions on Myanmar, but try diplomacy.

`Myanmar is an unexpected test for the Biden administration, which has always promoted human rights and democracy as the foundation of their foreign policy,` DiMaggio assessed.

What can Biden do about the mutiny in Myanmar?

Aung San Suu Kyi in Naypyitaw, Myanmar, in March 2016.

As Myanmar began its democratic transition, then-US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton won over reformers in the country’s military junta with promises of economic cooperation, sanctions relief and dependence.

The United States now does not have many attractive offers for a military head whose goals make him turn his back on a decade of change in Myanmar.

Myanmar General Min Aung Hlaing, who led the mutiny, has been imposed sanctions by the US for the campaign against the Rohingya, which Washington says is an act of `ethnic cleansing`.

`It’s easy to make a statement but it’s very difficult to determine what to do next,` said Murray Hiebert, Southeast Asia expert at the Institute for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS).

What can Biden do about the mutiny in Myanmar?

Commander-in-Chief of the Myanmar Armed Forces Min Aung Hlaing in Yangon in July 2016.

The main countries with which the United States can cooperate in efforts to handle the Myanmar issue are Japan and India, two close allies of the United States in the region and have warm relations with Myanmar.

China has also developed close relationships with Myanmar’s civilian leadership, who are very interested in Beijing’s Belt and Road infrastructure initiative.

`The irony is that I think China actually has a better relationship with Aung San Suu Kyi than the Myanmar military,` Hiebert said.

But faced with the prospect of the West tightening the siege, Myanmar’s new military leaders have no choice but to rely on China.

Meanwhile, President Biden has promised to focus more on relationships with allies, and many in Southeast Asia are eager to see Washington as a hedge against Beijing’s influence.

`What happened in Myanmar immediately made this vision more difficult,` Hiebert commented.

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