U.S. State Department Counselor’s Meeting with Ethnic Armed Groups Sparks Speculation

Myanmar Spring Chronicle – March 31 Scenes

MoeMaKa, April 01, 2024

U.S. State Department Counselor’s Meeting with Ethnic Armed Groups Sparks Speculation

The recent meeting between Derek Chollet, the Counselor of the U.S. Department of State, and four prominent ethnic armed groups from Myanmar has stirred intrigue and speculation about its potential implications for the country’s political landscape.

Chollet took to his social media platform to announce the meeting, which garnered immediate attention from media outlets and Myanmar watchers alike. The choice of ethnic armed groups – namely the Kachin Independence Army (KIA), Karen National Union (KNU), Karenni National Progressive Party (KNPP), and Chin National Front (CNF) – has raised questions about the significance of excluding other key players in Myanmar’s armed resistance, such as the New Mon State Party and various Shan ethnic armed groups.

Analysts have speculated on the reasons behind this selective engagement, with some suggesting that certain armed groups may have declined the invitation due to concerns about jeopardizing their relationships with China, a major regional player. Others have pointed to Chollet’s previous statements about collaborating with China to address Myanmar’s challenges, prompting speculation about potential cooperation between the United States and China on Myanmar-related issues.

Details of the meeting remain shrouded in secrecy, with no official disclosures about its outcomes. This lack of transparency has fueled further speculation about diplomatic sensitivities and the potential ramifications of revealing the meeting’s contents to the public.

In a brief statement to Radio Free Asia, KNPP Secretary-1 U Aung San Myint hinted at discussions covering both military and political developments in Myanmar. However, the broader implications of these discussions remain unclear.

Chollet’s previous remarks about U.S.-China collaboration on Myanmar-related issues have underscored the complex dynamics at play in the region. The United States and China share some common ground on Myanmar, such as their refusal to recognize Ambassador U Kyaw Moe Tun as Myanmar’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations following the military coup. However, China’s motivations and actions in Myanmar are believed to be driven primarily by its own strategic interests.

The meeting with the four ethnic armed groups has also raised questions about potential pressure on China, particularly in light of the KIA’s involvement, given its proximity to the Chinese border. The United States has historically maintained a confrontational stance toward China in Southeast Asia and East Asia, complicating diplomatic relations between the two superpowers.

Amidst these geopolitical maneuvers, the passage of the Burma Act – a component of the U.S. national defense budget allocating over $120 million in aid to Myanmar – has further fueled speculation about potential repercussions for ethnic armed groups. Questions linger about the nature of this aid and its potential impact on Myanmar’s political landscape.

Ultimately, the meeting between Chollet and the ethnic armed groups highlights the intricate interplay between regional powers and local actors in Myanmar’s complex political landscape. As the country grapples with the challenges of military dictatorship, the role of neighboring and global powers in shaping its future remains a subject of intense scrutiny and debate.