Nancy Pelosi, a high-profile US political leader, and her delegation team from Congress, will pay a visit to Myanmar in April. Their destination is Nay Pyi Taw.
She is the Minority Leader of the United States House of Representatives and served as the 60th Speaker of the United States House of Representatives from 2007 to 2011. She is the only woman to have served as House Speaker to date and is the highest-ranking female official in American history.
They will make a four-country tour of Asia including Myanmar.
Their destination is Nay Pyi Taw only and what surprising is that they will meet President Thein Sein, parliamentary speaker Thura Shwe Mann, commander-in-chief of defence services Senior General Min Aung Hlaing and Aung San Suu Kyi. They also hope to meet all four of them closely.
After Nancy Pelosi's visit, Cindy Hensley, wife of John McCain and representative of Republican Party will also come to Myanmar.
The visits of the US congressmen and people close to them to Myanmar should produce assessment over the relationship between the two countries.
The US Department of State will difinitely keep a close watch over these visits and the reviews of prestigious US congressmen are displeasing to the US Department of state.
Nancy Pelosi may probably bring four main items to discuss during her visit: The 2008 constitutional amendment, to end the chronic instabilities in ethnic regions, the affairs of Bengali Rohingya and the recent crackdown on student protestors.
The US Embassy in Myanmar might have sent reports to the US Department of State concerning these affairs. But no one knows how true the reports are.
Derek Mitchell, the US ambassador to Myanmar, and some diplomats of the US Department of State seek only to maintain a friendly relationship with the ministers from presidential office in Nay Pyi Taw.
Particularly, presidential office's minister Soe Thein, Information Minister Ye Htut and the high-ranking officers of Myanmar Peace Centre have a close relationship with Derek Mitchell and some American diplomats.
This makes the US foreign policy on Myanmar dubious.
Not only from the US but also the bureaucrats and diplomats from the West should be dealt with care.
The Myanmar government is crawling with pretentious groups and deceptive bureaucrats. The buzz suggests there are compromises between such Myanmar governmental officials and the Western diplomats.
Because of the reports they together produced, the misleading foerign policies go against the reality.
These Western diplomats and bureaucrats have made the manners of hardliners in Thein Sein's government even sterner.
This is because of the US and European countries. Their indirect supports give confidence to those close to the President and make cultivatehard-lined attitude.
Concerns rose if Myanmar is taking a back step.
Even the European Union which usually has positive views on the Myanmar government show some worries. But their concerns are overdue as they only happened when the diplomatic means could not hide the actual situation anymore.
The EU is about to present a report over Myanmar's human rights affairs to United Nations Commission on Human Rights. The commission will give a judgement upon that report late this month. The report contains the points claiming that Myanmar's reforms are backsliding.
Not only local media but the international media have denounced the government's recent crackdown over student protests in Letpadan.
President Thein Sein said he declined all the criticisms in his interview with British Broadcasting Corporation. He said in reply that the police were only beating the students back after they were beaten.
His excuse is unreasonable.
The US Embassy and the EU representative office in Myanmar issued statements after the Letpadan incident.
Both statements just said to make the best out of the loss, to take lessons from what happened and to avoid such action in future. Decisive criticism are not found in the statement.
This shows the Western and the US embassies' tendency to maintain the friendly relationship with the Myanmar government. It might be the policy of US Department of State or the US Embassy in Myanmar.
The visit of Nancy Pelosi is to be awaited and watched. The outcomes will not be favourable if her outlook is similar to those of US Department of State and the US Embassy in Myanmar.
The US needs to reconsider its foreign policy on Myanmar.
China – the de facto rival of the US – has significantly changed its foreign policy on Myanmar. The Chinese government has changed its relationship after years of friendliness with Myanmar leaders.
Chinese political scientists began to say in 2014 if Myanmar's reforms had hit the speed bump.
Guo Jiguang from the Institute of Asia-Pacific Studies, Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, was among the voices. He questioned if the Myanmar's reforms halted in his report published last year.
He also pinpointed which affairs had troubled the country. His views were featured in the Volume 12 of Contemporary World journal published by International Department of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China in 2014.
His takes have been included in reviews over Myanmar's affairs in Global Times newspaper – which is also the mouth piece of Chinese government.
The Chinese government has utilised the ideas of its political experts and sent its journalists to collect information and opinions from Myanmar.
Some Chinese journalists came and met with Dr Than Htut Aung, CEO of Eleven Media Group in 2014 and talked about the situations of the country. Chinese journalists came and gathered the public opinion.
The shift in Chinese policy towards Myanmar seems to focus on the post-2016.
The Chinese government urged Myanmar to reduce the military role in politics gradually; to amend the 2008 Constitution and even consider the participation of National League for Democracy and Aung San Suu Kyi in Myanmar politics.
The most significant factor is its support for Aung San Suu Kyi.
The Chinese government also gave their assumptions that the commander-in-chief Min Aung Hlaing and Aung San Suu Kyi will become the key players of Myanmar's politics. It seems the Chinese government began to realise what to do to establish good relationships with the people and the military of Myanmar.
During the recent Kokang fightings, a bomb from Myanmar side fell on the Chinese territory and killed four Chinese nationals. Normally, the problem should have been solved between the two foreign affairs ministries.
But the Chinese government phoned directly to the commander-in-chief Min Aung Hlaing and asked for explanation. This means putting the cart before the horse, but it also shows that the Chinese government relies on Senior General Min Aung Hlaing than President Thein Sein to make something accomplished.
The Chinese government thinks about that way partly because the President has made a series of mistakes.
It is important how the US will respond to the shift in the Chinese government’s policy towards Myanmar.
At present, Western countries and the US Department of State seem to place little focus on Aung San Suu Kyi, opposition parties and the oppressed.
Under such circumstances, it will be food for thought for the US how to deal with the Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP), President Thein Sein and the military in post-2015. It is still uncertain about the 2015 general election.
There are those who want to see dictatorship by instigating instability that can lead to military coup.
Now, the US could not liken the situation of Myanmar to that of Egypt or Thailand. They are different.
Egypt has Muslim extremists who are still powerful. In Thailand, the king has supported the military coup. Myanmar has no monarch. The Thai military has shown their disfavor to the crown prince as have the Thai people. The Thai military is reportedly considering kingship for Princess Sirindhorn in place of the crown prince as she gains popularity among the Thai people.
Another point is that the Thai military could not hold power for long. Even if possible, it could only maintain power until the end of 2016. They must hold elections to choose a civilian government. But Myanmar cannot afford another military coup.
A coup d’état is possible under Myanmar’s constitution but that will come to a sticky end. Try to declare military rule in Yangon like it was declared in Laukkaing. Then reconciliation between the military and the people will never work. President Thein and his party USDP will not get a single vote.
This is the point the US needs to consider because China has had a solution to this.
However, Senior General Min Aung Hlaing seems unwilling to stage a coup. His interviews with international news agencies reflect some meanings, but the interviews with local news outlets show no sign of military coup.
There are two reasons why Min Aung Hlaing does not want to mount a military coup while he is serving as the Commander-in-Chief of Defence Services. They can be seen in his previous interviews.
First, he has an ultimate political aim. Second, he tends to break with tradition of former military chiefs who usually became dictators.
Supposing he has taken over power or staged a military coup according to the constitution, his political ambition will come to an end. Moreover, his military reform process will become a failure. He would become a dictator and lose public support in politics. He has no desire to stage a coup. He even seems to refuse any power handover from Thein Sein.
So long as Senior General Min Aung Hlaing is Commander-in-Chief of Defence Services, any military coup or power handover will not happen.
In an interview with Eleven Media Group, he said any mistake would not be allowed when it comes to2015 general elections.
“… We will try to ensure a free and fair election. We want it happen so. Since it will be recorded in history, we will not allow any mistake,” said Min Aung Hlaing.
It means that the military will remain neutral in the upcoming election.
Recently, the military has shown flexibility in ethnic affairs stipulated in the constitution and the issue of ceasefire with ethnic armed groups. The military side tabled an urgent proposal in parliament calling for a piece of legislation that can guarantee equality in sharing of power, resources and revenue among various regions and states.
In other words, that proposal has signaled that tables (1), (2), (3) and (5) of the 2008 constitution could be amended as demanded by ethnic minorities.
Similarly, the military has made some compromises over the issue of nationwide ceasefire agreement with the ethnic armed groups. It also agreed on disarmament only after political consensuses have been reached.
Reports have said that the military is not behind the recent crackdown on student protestors.
Home Affairs Minister Lt-General Ko Ko is among the members of the National Defence and Security Council (NDSC) under a direct appointment from the military chief. Some reports also say that the military did not order anything to Lt-Gen Ko Ko though he belongs to NDSC. So the military could not be blamed.
What we are sure is that the military has changed its stances over the abovementioned issues. Although we cannot know what is behind such changes, the military is supposed to remain calm in the post-2015.
Since President Thein Sein took office, there has been no significant progress in the country’s reform. Successes on paper prove no benefits. No changes have been seen in the lives of the ordinary people.
At present, we have two important things—the emergence of a civilian government after a free and fair election has been held as scheduled, and constitutional amendment.
Under current circumstances in Myanmar, the US has two things to do. The first point is for the US to consider how to help improve the relations between Senior General Min Aung Hlaing and Aung San Suu Kyi in the post-2016. The second point is that smart sanctions should be imposed against those bend on disrupting elections.
But such a plan is reportedly underway. There are reports that smart sanctions will come against businessmen and all those having close ties with crony media likely to disrupt the election. Inclusive economic sanctions cause a burden on the people only. But smart sanctions could be targeted against those who can or try to disrupt elections. Particularly, such sanctions should be targeted against the oppressive, crony businessmen and media tycoons and those who tend to win elections with the use of money earned from land grabs.
There can be only about 100 people who deserve such sanctions. Among those are mostly from a group of people who have been deceiving the international community with the help of some diplomats.
We can see three political blocs in view of Myanmar’s politics before the 2015 election. They are the bloc of President Thein Sein and USDP, the bloc of Aung San Suu Kyi and pro-democracy opposition parties and the bloc of Senior General Min Aung Hlaing and the military.
China foresees that the decisionmakers in the post 2016 period are Min Aung Hlaing and Aung San Suu Kyi.
When it comes to saying about its perspectives and policies, China usually pays more attention to these two leaders than Thein Sein. The US should know that. It is noticeable that China’s steps towards improving relations with the Myanmar military and repairing relations with its people are different from those of the US.
But we cannot believe in China. When the NLD won the election in 1990, China was the first to send a message of congratulations. Later, it was able to launch closer ties with the coup leaders.
Despite being a single-party dictatorship, China does not deal with every dictatorial country in the same particular manner. It usually chooses ones that can serve its interests. The people of Myanmar know about that very well.
What we are sure is that the Chinese government has realised that the Myanmar people hate China just because their interests are harmed, but not because anti-Chinese sentiment grows in the country.
This fact is seen after a bomb fall in China’s territory killing four people. In the incident, the Myanmar people did not show anti-Chinese sentiment.
There might be two reasons – the people’s dissatisfaction with the government over the Letpadan crackdown on student protestors and their hopes for China changing mindsets in order to serve the interests of Myanmar people.
Not China alone, the US, EU and Myanmar also have their interests. We can forget the past in terms of the current interests.
China is a single-party dictatorship but the US and Western countries practise democracy. So the latter cannot infringe democratic norms and standards.
Now, what some US and Western diplomats and bureaucrats from the US Department of State have done is like acting beyond democratic norms.
If they continue to do so, 30 years of their support for Myanmar’s democratic cause will be nothing in history.
It is time for the US and Western countries including EU to conduct changes in next six months if they want to have friendly relations with Myanmar public.
Otherwise, the people will forget all of their help and support. Then Myanmar public and Myanmar’s democracy will become distant from the US and Western countries.