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Source to VOA: US to Downgrade Relations with Myanmar

FILE - Myanmar citizens protest against the military coup in front of the UN office in Bangkok, Thailand Feb. 17, 2021.
FILE - Myanmar citizens protest against the military coup in front of the UN office in Bangkok, Thailand Feb. 17, 2021.

A diplomatic source has told VOA Burmese that the U.S. will downgrade its diplomatic relations with Myanmar upon the departure of the current U.S. ambassador, Thomas Vajda, whose assignment is scheduled to conclude at the end of this month.

The administration of President Joe Biden has decided not to send a successor, said the source, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss a matter not yet officially announced by the State Department.

"Deputy Chief of Mission Deborah Lynn will assume duties as charge d'affaires at [the] U.S. Embassy Rangoon after Ambassador Vajda's departure," the source said.

FILE - Ambassador Thomas Vajda
FILE - Ambassador Thomas Vajda

Vajda arrived in Myanmar in January 2021, just before the democratically elected government of Aung San Suu Kyi was ousted.

The previous U.S. ambassador to Myanmar, Scot Marciel, told VOA that the U.S. doesn't want to present credentials to the ruling military junta, formally known as the State Administrative Council (SAC).

"The main point is that a new U.S. ambassador would have had to present his or her credentials to the SAC, most likely to Min Aung Hlaing. That would have created the impression that the U.S. was conferring legitimacy on the junta, which Washington doesn't want to do. The junta would have used the photos to claim legitimacy. This isn't a break in relations but rather a downgrading, similar to what happened in the early 1990s."

Marciel served as the U.S. ambassador to Myanmar for four years from 2016 to 2020. But Vajda, his successor, has served a little less than two years.

Most Western countries including Britain and Australia also downgraded diplomatic ties with Myanmar in order to avoid signing agreements that would amount to official recognition of the regime that ousted the elected National League for Democracy government in February 2021.

Among countries that maintain embassies in Myanmar, Denmark, Germany, Israel and Italy have downgraded, or are in the process of downgrading, their diplomatic representation to charge d'affaires or "head of mission" level, according to the diplomatic source in Myanmar. European Union countries have informally agreed not to send ambassadors to their Myanmar missions, said Brussels-based diplomats.