After several years of reform that put Myanmar on a track toward becoming an important U.S. partner in the region, the conflict and exodus of refugees from Rakhine State since August 2017 – a dramatic escalation after decades of intermittent violence arising from political grievances and intercommunal tensions -- poses a significant threat to the country’s trajectory and prospects. Myanmar still has the potential to become an important partner in the years ahead as we implement the Indo-Pacific strategy, but the authorities must come to terms with what transpired, hold accountable those responsible for human rights violations, and begin to change the attitudes and policies that gave rise to this tragedy, and that contribute to intercommunal conflict across Myanmar. Without tangible improvements, Myanmar risks further alienating and potentially radicalizing these populations to uncertain ends, and cannot succeed in its democratic aspirations. Myanmar also risks having to rely internationally on a few countries willing to overlook what happened because of their broader strategic interests.
Enhancing the ability of Myanmar’s nascent democracy to deliver progress to its entire people, and overcome the legacy of military rule and isolation, remains a top Mission priority, even as recent events demonstrate how difficult this will be. We will invest across a wider spectrum of society to identify and cultivate the next generation of Myanmar’s leaders. The Mission will help the Myanmar government become more inclusive, capable, accountable, and responsive to its people through good governance and protection of human rights. This will include those traditionally excluded from decision making, such as religious and ethnic minorities, persons with disabilities, women, and LGBT persons. We are backing the efforts of civil society to address the pervasiveness of hate speech on social media. Over the longer term, the Mission will buttress efforts to build strong national institutions that respect the rule of law and freedom of the press, both critical components to democratic sustainability and national reconciliation. We support legislatures, electoral processes, law enforcement and judicial professionalism, as well as universal access to justice, to help ensure core democratic institutions are effective, transparent, and accountable to the public. We will also engage when appropriate with junior and mid-level officers in the Myanmar military, to advocate for an appropriate role for the military in a civilian-led democracy, even as we pursue accountability for violations of human rights. We will strengthen Myanmar's capacity to protect the lives and rights of U.S. citizens, counter transnational threats, and respond to the disasters that frequently afflict Myanmar.
Ultimately, Myanmar’s success can only be achieved if there is an end to the decades-long conflict between ethnic armed groups and the national government, and national reconciliation among the government, military, and those ethnic groups. This will require Constitutional reform and a rebalancing of power between state governments and the Union government, as well as between the military and the civilian government. As a trusted partner, we will continue to support the peace process to facilitate dialogue and negotiations. We will also continue to be a catalyst for dialogue among cross-sections of society seeking to create a national identity within a future federal structure. Forging a tolerant, inclusive national identity will be a long-term effort. We can share lessons learned from our history of harnessing strength from diversity to promote tolerance. This will be critical to the ability to govern the diverse population that makes up Myanmar. In the end, our support for a peaceful and democratic Myanmar enhances both U.S. and Myanmar security.
Myanmar’s path to success also relies on inclusive, sustainable economic growth, and it must integrate its economy into regional and global markets to demonstrate that democracy delivers benefits. Because our economic and development partnership expands U.S. and Myanmar prosperity, our Mission is working with the government to develop the legal and regulatory frameworks required to promote international trade and investment and enforce contracts, intellectual property laws, and resolve civil disputes, making this market more attractive to responsible western businesses. The American brand remains popular, but many companies are opting out of the Myanmar market due to concerns over reputational risk and the difficult business environment, characterized by an opaque and outdated legal framework and complicated and inconsistent bureaucracy. Equitable access to land and managing natural resources sustainably will be critical to the peaceful economic growth of the country. Further, the government must address the domestic health and social issues, as well as the international criminal dimension, of being one of the world’s largest producers of illicit narcotics. We will support the government in addressing these and will help ensure essential quality health care for everyone through stronger and more inclusive health systems. This will help Myanmar combat infectious diseases, such as malaria, HIV/AIDS, and tuberculosis that present health risks to the United States and the world.
Our broad engagement will build support for U.S. policies and values and the U.S. as the partner of choice. People-to-people ties underpin our bilateral relationship as we focus on the next generation of leaders and reformers. We will use tools such as the new American Center and our exchange and educational programs to help build the capacity for effective governance and journalism. We will continue to support a growing Peace Corps program with volunteers who strengthen the capacities of teachers, students, and community members and who promote cross-cultural understanding and friendship between our two countries. We will support civil society is its efforts to secure human rights for all, and women’s participation and influence in decision-making at all levels and in all areas. We will increase law enforcement cooperation against transnational threats and partner to advance regional and global priorities of mutual interest in fora like ASEAN and the UN. We will support Myanmar’s efforts to fulfill international obligations concerning non-proliferation, regional security, transnational crime, and other global challenges. We will pursue all our mission goals with attention to gender equality, adopting an inclusive approach to integrate gender concerns into all mission policy, programming, and management.
Our highest management priority is to open an Embassy Liaison Office in the capital, Nay Pyi Taw, as a platform for enhanced diplomacy, while also developing long term plans to open an embassy there. To further support our mission goals, we are developing a highly skilled workforce and strong mission culture, adaptable to change and reflective of our own diverse culture. These efforts are critical to our successful engagement with the Myanmar government and its people.