US Pledges to Continue Support for Myanmar’s Democratic Transition

By Nan Lwin 18 December 2020

YANGON — The United States has pledged to continue its support for Myanmar’s democratic transition and discussed cooperation on Rakhine State development, including creating a better environment for the Rohingya, according to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

In a teleconference with Myanmar’s international cooperation minister, U Kyaw Tin, the outgoing deputy US secretary of state, Stephen Biegun, on Thursday, praised the Nov. 8 general election and discussed positive cooperation over Rakhine State, the ministry said.

The ministry said in a press release that U Kyaw Tin and Biegun discussed long-term cooperation in Rakhine State, including creating a better environment for refugees.

U Kyaw Tin urged the US to consider Rakhine security as well as human rights issues. He explained the complexity of the Rakhine State crisis and called on the US to look at the issue from a development perspective.

The minister said Myanmar had signed a repatriation agreement with Bangladesh and preparations were being made for the return of refugees. But the process was hampered by the threat from the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA) in the Cox’s Bazar camp in Bangladesh.

U Kyaw Tin urged the US to understand the challenges facing Myanmar during its democratic transition, adding that constructive assistance is required from the international community.

More than 730,000 Rohingya have fled to Bangladesh since August 2017 to escape military operations that the United Nations called a “textbook example of ethnic cleansing”. Myanmar’s military denies committing human rights abuses, insisting the crackdown was a response to coordinated ARSA attacks on security posts in Rakhine State. Despite a repatriation agreement signed by Myanmar and Bangladesh in November 2017, it has not been implemented with both sides blaming each other for the delays.

The ministry said a resumption of the Myanmar-US Partnership, which was established under the Obama administration, was discussed during the teleconference. State Counsellor Daw Aung Sang Suu Kyi and President Barack Obama launched the partnership in 2016 to enhance cooperation, based on mutual respect and common interests.

Increased investment in Myanmar was also discussed.

The US is the 10th-largest source of foreign direct investment in Myanmar with nearly US$330 million (447 billion kyats) invested in six enterprises since 2017, according to the Directorate of Investment and Company Administration, the government’s investment agency.

During the meeting, the US also confirmed that a new ambassador, Thomas Vajda, would arrive in Myanmar soon.