I attended a town hall meeting tonight at the American Embassy in Yangon. It was pretty cool to enter the compound, and I sort of felt like I was back on American soil. I had a chance to hear from a few members of the administration, including the American Ambassador, Derek Mitchell (who started July 2012 – the first American ambassador here in Myanmar in 22 years).
Here are a few points:
- The #1 challenge for Myanmar is national reconciliation (e.g. national ceasefire among ethnic communities and Muslim/Buddhist tensions), and the American administration has been working to help in the reform process
- National elections, coming up in November, is also a major topic
- The reputation of America here in Myanmar is very high
I know many of you are concerned with safety, so here are some points on that:
- The American Embassy is not expecting major (evacuation-level) violence
- There is someone on staff specifically focused on potential hot spots where danger could crop up during the elections
- Assisted evacuation will be provided if commercial flights aren’t running
- The American Embassy is employing a warden system (10 in Yangon and 3 spread out across the country), in which each American citizen will be assigned to a warden (by geography) as a point of contact in case any issues arise or if anyone becomes disconnected during conflict. To be assigned, citizens need to enroll in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) via the State Department’s website (https://step.state.gov/step/)
Again, the American Embassy isn’t expecting any major issues, but they do have protocols in place in case something is to arise.