Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and Joe Biden: the future of US-Myanmar Relations

The success of President-elect Joe Biden in the U.S. presidential elections mirrors an eerily similar situation in Myanmar; the 8th of November marked the second election in Myanmar since the end of military rule in 2015 and final results are still trickling in. Nonetheless, a clear winner emerged. Like in the United States, Myanmar’s National League for Democracy (NLD), Daw Aung San Suu Kyi’s flagship party, appear to have won an absolute majority of seats in parliament and with this, they will begin their second five-year term in power.

Daw Aung San Suu Kyi has most likely mixed feelings about the U.S. elections; on one hand, like President-elect Biden, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi also faces an opponent unwilling to concede defeat. The army-backed party, the Union Solidarity Development Party (USDP), refuses to accept her victory, calling for a military-managed re-run of the election – they accuse the NLD of bribing voters and electoral fraud. Mr. Biden as president could also put Myanmar back on the map in terms of foreign policy (President Trump notoriously responded with “where is that?” when a Rohingya refugee asked about his plan to help return Rohingya refugees to Myanmar) and economic engagement, as Myanmar continues to flourish economically after decades in isolation.

However, being back on the map may not be all it’s cracked out to be; Myanmar’s dismal human rights record and genocidal tendencies have been harshly criticised and even sanctioned by many states, and Mr. Biden may decide to shift the United States back to the role of the “world’s policeman”. However, this is unlikely to be more than a mild reprimand in the face of more pressing U.S. domestic issues such as the global pandemic, attempts to keep a shaky economy afloat, and a deepening political polarisation. A mixed bag, but one that is unlikely to change much in Myanmar’s political landscape.

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