The US is carefully exploring the possibility of using a calibrated military-to-military engagement with Myanmar to support a transition to civilian government, a top White House official has said, a day after America eased economic sanctions on the country.
“We are carefully exploring in close consultation with Congress what can be done to use calibrated military-to-
military engagement to support a transition to civilian rule,” Deputy National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes said this week after the US eased as series of sanctions against Myanmar.
Rhodes, who has played a key role in the Obama administration’s Myanmar policy and is said to be the man behind pushing for a new policy with this country, said that some problems remain inherent in Myanmar’s constitution.
This continues to provide the military with disproportionate influence over the legislative process as well as control over key ministries and parts of the economy.
“The new government will need to address these issues to continue its democratic transition. The people of Burma should be able to decide whether and when to amend their country’s constitution,” Rhodes said.
“We will continue to coordinate and calibrate our engagement with the military, with the President and Aung San Suu Kyi so that we are supporting the ultimate goal of promoting civilian control of the military and the development of a professional, capable military that serves the needs of the people,” Rhodes said.
Asserting that ensuring the military’s support for the civilian government is critical to its success, he said this is why the administration continues to convey to the military the importance of civilian control and oversight.
“We have focused our tentative engagement on exchanges, outreach, professionalisation and supporting Burma’s
participation as an observer in efforts where we work closely with Southeast-Asian militaries, for instance humanitarian assistance and disaster relief,” Rhodes said.
This engagement has included visits by senior officials, workshops that focus on international human rights, the law of armed conflict and rules of engagement, he said.
“We have also facilitated the participation by Burmese military and civilian officials in some DoD (Department of
Defence) hosted multilateral conferences, as well as observing our annual COBRA GOLD exercise. At the same time – and consistent with congressional restrictions – we have limited our engagements in other areas, even as the Burmese military has expressed interest in expanding contacts.
“Ultimately, these engagements could prove important to supporting the implementation of any nationwide cease-fire, which would benefit the people of Myanmar,” he said in his address to the Center for New American Security.