US military officials arrived in Myanmar amid debate surrounding engagement with the military which led the country into junta rule.
The delegation, consisting of 22 senior US officials and support staff, aims to pave the way for lasting reforms and peace agreements with ethnic minorities by engaging Myanmar’s military, which Washington believes is a necessity.
Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies’ latest report sees that bilateral programs between the US and Myanmar’s military could serve as a harbinger to establish military relations.
To coincide with the delegation’s visit, US deputy secretary of state William Burns will hold high-level talks between US officials, including US deputy assistant secretary of defense for East Asia Vikram Singh, US ambassador to Myanmar Derek Mitchell, other senior officials from the state deparment, the National Security Council, the homeland security department, USaid, President Thein Sein, military commander-in-chief Min Aung Hlaing and other senior officials. US officials will also meet leaders of ethnic groups, including Rohingya Muslims and Rakhine Buddhists.
While reforms in Myanmar had gradually opened up the country, the ensuing sectarian violence has raised concerns that the country could backslide. According to the Financial Times, the government was able to forge ceasefire agreements with 10 out of 11 ethnic rebel groups. The ongoing conflict in Kachin state, however, underlined the “fragility” of peace agreements.
Thant Myint-U, who is involved with the government’s peace efforts, told the Financial Times, “It would be counterproductive for the peace process to proceed without involving Myanmar’s military”.