The US-ASEAN Business Council has called for Washington to appoint a special envoy for Myanmar, saying bold US leadership could help resolve the crisis.
A US special envoy could coordinate a strategic approach involving smart, targeted sanctions and create room for effective dialogue in tandem with allies, said the business council.
It urged President Joe Biden to empower a special envoy with a support base in the region by also swiftly filling US ambassadorial posts in Singapore and Thailand and for Asean, the 10-member regional body which includes Myanmar.
The council said: “The military coup threatens to reverse the political and economic progress made, as well as the country’s future trajectory.”
Recently, the United Nations Development Programme warned that all financial reports since the coup indicated Myanmar is approaching economic collapse.
Alexander Feldman, chairman of the business council, said: “The unfolding situation in Myanmar threatens economic collapse and imperils the lives of the people of Myanmar.
“The US government must fully equip and deploy its diplomatic arsenal in ASEAN to confront this crisis, which includes filling key ambassador posts in Southeast Asia and appointing a dedicated special envoy for Myanmar,” Feldman added.
“American leadership is necessary in this critical moment to realize a viable path forward for Myanmar and ensure stability in the region,” the chairman said.
The council plays an advocacy role for US corporations operating in ASEAN. In 2019, the council visited Myanmar to expand investment in the country along with the representatives of Amazon, Google, Coca-Cola, Chevron, Chubb, Diageo, Ford, Jhpiego, MasterCard, Visa, Abbott and BowerGroupAsia.
“The sooner the situation in Myanmar is seen and treated as an Indo-Pacific challenge on all fronts – political, security, humanitarian and economic – the better off all parties concerned will be”, said Jack Myint, country manager for Myanmar on the business council.
“Beyond the scope of great power competition, what we’re really looking at is a failed state waiting to happen at the heart of one of the most dynamic regions of the world. The US must do more and do better to tackle this head-on. There’s simply too much at stake,” Myint said.
Following the coup, the US imposed targeted sanctions on Myanmar’s military leadership. Trade sanctions followed in March against the defense and home affairs ministries and military-controlled conglomerates Myanma Economic Holdings Public Company Limited and Myanmar Economic Corporation Limited.
In April, US Treasury Department imposed sanctions on a state-owned gems firm, Myanma Timber Enterprise and Myanmar Pearl Enterprise in a bid to cut financial lifelines for the junta.
The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) has faced criticism that it has not acted strongly enough against Myanmar’s junta.
A special meeting in Jakarta on April 24 with junta chief Min Aung Hlaing was widely seen as ineffective.
ASEAN’s leaders reached a five-point consensus, urging the junta to seek a political resolution through dialogue, accept the appointment of a special envoy to engage with pro-democracy groups and grant access to humanitarian assistance from ASEAN.
However, the junta responded that it would consider the proposals after the situation stabilizes and if its five-step roadmap was followed. The regime claimed its roadmap served Myanmar’s national interests.