On the same day U.S. President Joe Biden recommitted his country to ASEAN, a much smaller, personal message got through to a young Burmese student living in California.
In a letter delivered Tuesday to fifth-grader Doreas Thang, Biden responded to the 10-year-old’s unhappiness over the abuse of Myanmar’s civilians by soldiers acting on behalf of the ruling junta.
“Thank you for sharing your thoughts with me. Vice President Harris and I love hearing from students. Even at your young age, you have the power to change the future and make history,” Biden wrote in the letter which was made public by the girl’s mother, Esther Wa.
Wa, originally from Chin State where tensions are running high between the military and local insurgent forces, said her daughter had announced to her that she would write to the president.
“She expressed her feelings and stated she would write a letter to President Joe Biden, requesting that I look up the address on Google,” she wrote on social media.
In it, Doreas expressed sympathy for Myanmar refugees, her grandma, and family back in Myanmar.
“She finished the letter and handed it on to me. When I looked at it, I could see how strong her feelings were. I told her she needed to polish it. She told me the next day that she had forwarded it to the White House,” she added.
“When you make your voice heard, adults listen,” Biden added in his response,, which was dated Oct. 20 and came on White House stationery with a photo.
Speaking remotely yesterday, Biden told ASEAN members meeting in Brunei that the United States had “grave concerns” about the violence in Myanmar and committed over US$100 million in new spending in the region.
In an unprecedented move, Myanmar pulled out of the summit after ASEAN barred coup leader Gen. Min Aung Hlaing from attending.
It was the first time an American head of state had participated in an ASEAN summit since former President Donald Trump ended the practice after 2017.