Vice President Harris Says US ‘Committed to Supporting People’ of Myanmar

By The Irrawaddy 25 August 2021

The US vice president, who is now on a Southeast Asian tour, said Washington is committed to supporting the Myanmar people in their attempts to restore democracy in the country, while calling on other nations in the region to join the US in the effort.

Referring to the Southeast Asian country’s ongoing bloody and deadly struggle to topple the military regime that seized power in February, Vice President Kamala Harris said in Singapore on Tuesday that “the United States remains deeply alarmed by the military coup in Burma”, using the country’s former name.

“We condemn the campaign of violent repression.  And we are committed to supporting the people there as they work to return their nation to the path of democracy,” she said.

“We do hope that nations throughout the Indo-Pacific will join us in that effort,” she added.

Since the coup, the regime has killed 1,014 people and detained more than 5,800 across the country in its crackdowns against anyone who opposes its rule, according to monitoring groups.

More than six months on, the junta is struggling to rule the country, as it faces nationwide popular opposition ranging from flash-mob protests to deadly armed resistance, both in urban and rural areas, nearly every day.

The US, along with other democracies in the West, has condemned the coup in Myanmar since the beginning. It has also encouraged the regional bloc, ASEAN, to take initiatives to resolve Myanmar’s crisis, as the country is a member of the bloc.

Apart from its support for ASEAN’s effort, the US has also engaged with Myanmar’s shadow National Unity Government (NUG), which was formed by elected lawmakers of the ousted National League for Democracy government and their ethnic allies.

Early this month, US Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman spoke with Daw Zin Mar Aung, the NUG’s foreign minister, making the first official contact between a senior US official and Myanmar’s parallel government.

The State Department said at the time that the two discussed ongoing efforts to return Myanmar to a path to democracy, including continued US support for the pro-democracy movement, as well as efforts to combat rising COVID-19 infections in Myanmar and to provide critical humanitarian assistance to the people.

Then, US Ambassador to the UN Linda Thomas-Greenfield announced that Washington would provide more than US$50 million in critical humanitarian assistance to the people of Myanmar including those forced to flee violence and persecution.

This month, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken urged his ASEAN counterparts to take joint action to urge the military to end the violence.

He welcomed the bloc’s appointment of Brunei’s second minister for foreign affairs, Erywan Yusof, as special envoy to Myanmar. However, ASEAN has been criticized for its failure to reach out to any relevant parties concerning the Myanmar issue.

On Tuesday, the NUG’s deputy foreign minister said ASEAN had yet to engage with the shadow government.

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