After 100 days of a new Myanmar: Can Suu Kyi live up to her promises?

Reading Time: 4 minutes

Suu Kyi governmentThis July 7 marked the 100-day anniversary of the new civilian government in Myanmar, with the National League for Democracy (NLD) of democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi in power, with herself being the de-facto leader of the nation, holding the positions of State Counselor, Foreign Minister and Minister of the President’s Office.

The new administration inherited a number of political, social  and economic challenges, and it was clear that managing the transition from military rule was not going to be done overnight. Suu Kyi promised to take on several problems, including essentially changing the constitution, trying to end the various armed conflicts in the country and the social tensions between population groups, establishing a stronger rule of law and releasing all political prisoners.

However, observers of the policy of the once charismatic Nobel Prize laureate note that in fact not much has happened in the first 100 days apart from filling government positions and setting up committees to address some of the above mentioned issues that still have to present strategies yet.

“The first 100 days are important for a new government to give people the impression of how confident and reliable they are to lead and govern our country for the next five years. At that point, in my opinion, they lost that opportunity,” Khin Maung Zaw, a political analyst, told Channel News Asia.

Zeya Thu, a political and economic analyst, added: “This is the time to make credible changes, because this is the transition within the even larger transition and if they cannot make the best use of the first 100 days, it will set tone for the next five years.”

In fact, the reasons that there are no immediate results from the new government yet are complex. The administration experiences continued tensions with the military which ruled the country for almost half a century and keeps controlling the nation’s security policy by holding onto the key defense, home affairs and border affairs ministries, and is therefore able to block certain processes.

And although Suu Kyi during last year’s election campaign pledged to change the constitution to reduce the political power of the Myanmar army in case of an NLD victory, the issue is now hardly mentioned. She appears to have accepted that there is a “red line” for a constitutional change for the army that could threaten her government’s survival.

There is also no improvement with regards to the ethical conflicts that continue to rattle Myanmar. In fact, fighting between armed group and the army carries on as usual to the detriment of the local population, and there is no new, viable concept for a peace process.

The situation of the Muslim minority in Rakhine state, the Rohingya, has even deteriorated. Recent anti-Muslim aggression has not been commented on by Suu Kyi. A committee has been set up to look into the issue, but, again, no roadmap has been presented to deliver solutions.

United Nations’ human rights officials criticised her heavily for that and called for an end to “discriminatory policies and practices by repealing discriminatory laws.” A New York Times editorial said “a woman whose name has been synonymous with human rights for a generation has continued an utterly unacceptable policy of the military rulers she succeeded.”

Suu Kyi responded that she needs “space” to sort out such problems as the Rohingya and maintains that she has “always stood for human rights and the rule of law.”

But some domestic observers say that Suu Kyi, a former political prisoner, has become a pragmatic politician, one who fears that pushing the military too far on human rights and other contentious issues could stop her in her tracks — or even spark another military coup. Others likened her to a “democratic dictator,” a “one-person show”surrounded by a family of loyalists that lack leadership.

Others come to her defense.

“People are expecting miracles from her. But first of all it is important to remember that this is a government with very limited power,” said Swedish journalist and Myanmar expert Bertil Lintner, an author of several books on the country.

“The main success of the government is that it is there. Although with limited powers, it is the first civilian government since 1962. And that gives the people some hope,” he added.

Again, others say Suu Kyi’s to-do-list was just “too big” and she wants to do everything on her own, like when she ran the NLD as political opposition.

“But now, people want results,” said Myanmar academic Dr Khin Zaw Win, adding that “Suu Kyi should delegate some of the mammoth tasks at hand. She should delegate more tasks and authority to some of her ministers. Trying to handle it on her own desk, I think it’s not advisable.”

Up to now, Myanmar remains one of the world’s least developed countries, the second largest producer of opium and was listed among the worst offenders in human trafficking by the U.S. State Department in its recent report. Rife with corruption, the nation ranks 147 out of 168 countries on the latest index of Transparency International.

Just one-third of the population has access to electricity, and firewood remains the primary source of energy fr the rest, which fuels deforestation together with illegal logging, causing environmental degradation. Land grab is rampant, and inadequate infrastructure, limited workforce skills and administrative constraints have stifled the manufacturing sector.

The previous quasi-civilian government of former president Thein Sein has pushed policies to bring economic reform, and in the fiscal year of 2013-2014, Myanmar’s economy grew nearly 8.3 per cent. However, it has been primarily driven by the construction, manufacturing and service sectors in urban areas. In order to thoroughly combat rural poverty, the new government needs to introduce measures to improve the livelihood of the rural poor who still rely solely on agriculture by improving education and infrastructure and by developing alternative economic sectors for them.

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This July 7 marked the 100-day anniversary of the new civilian government in Myanmar, with the National League for Democracy (NLD) of democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi in power, with herself being the de-facto leader of the nation, holding the positions of State Counselor, Foreign Minister and Minister of the President's Office. The new administration inherited a number of political, social  and economic challenges, and it was clear that managing the transition from military rule was not going to be done overnight. Suu Kyi promised to take on several problems, including essentially changing the constitution, trying to end the...

Reading Time: 4 minutes

Suu Kyi governmentThis July 7 marked the 100-day anniversary of the new civilian government in Myanmar, with the National League for Democracy (NLD) of democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi in power, with herself being the de-facto leader of the nation, holding the positions of State Counselor, Foreign Minister and Minister of the President’s Office.

The new administration inherited a number of political, social  and economic challenges, and it was clear that managing the transition from military rule was not going to be done overnight. Suu Kyi promised to take on several problems, including essentially changing the constitution, trying to end the various armed conflicts in the country and the social tensions between population groups, establishing a stronger rule of law and releasing all political prisoners.

However, observers of the policy of the once charismatic Nobel Prize laureate note that in fact not much has happened in the first 100 days apart from filling government positions and setting up committees to address some of the above mentioned issues that still have to present strategies yet.

“The first 100 days are important for a new government to give people the impression of how confident and reliable they are to lead and govern our country for the next five years. At that point, in my opinion, they lost that opportunity,” Khin Maung Zaw, a political analyst, told Channel News Asia.

Zeya Thu, a political and economic analyst, added: “This is the time to make credible changes, because this is the transition within the even larger transition and if they cannot make the best use of the first 100 days, it will set tone for the next five years.”

In fact, the reasons that there are no immediate results from the new government yet are complex. The administration experiences continued tensions with the military which ruled the country for almost half a century and keeps controlling the nation’s security policy by holding onto the key defense, home affairs and border affairs ministries, and is therefore able to block certain processes.

And although Suu Kyi during last year’s election campaign pledged to change the constitution to reduce the political power of the Myanmar army in case of an NLD victory, the issue is now hardly mentioned. She appears to have accepted that there is a “red line” for a constitutional change for the army that could threaten her government’s survival.

There is also no improvement with regards to the ethical conflicts that continue to rattle Myanmar. In fact, fighting between armed group and the army carries on as usual to the detriment of the local population, and there is no new, viable concept for a peace process.

The situation of the Muslim minority in Rakhine state, the Rohingya, has even deteriorated. Recent anti-Muslim aggression has not been commented on by Suu Kyi. A committee has been set up to look into the issue, but, again, no roadmap has been presented to deliver solutions.

United Nations’ human rights officials criticised her heavily for that and called for an end to “discriminatory policies and practices by repealing discriminatory laws.” A New York Times editorial said “a woman whose name has been synonymous with human rights for a generation has continued an utterly unacceptable policy of the military rulers she succeeded.”

Suu Kyi responded that she needs “space” to sort out such problems as the Rohingya and maintains that she has “always stood for human rights and the rule of law.”

But some domestic observers say that Suu Kyi, a former political prisoner, has become a pragmatic politician, one who fears that pushing the military too far on human rights and other contentious issues could stop her in her tracks — or even spark another military coup. Others likened her to a “democratic dictator,” a “one-person show”surrounded by a family of loyalists that lack leadership.

Others come to her defense.

“People are expecting miracles from her. But first of all it is important to remember that this is a government with very limited power,” said Swedish journalist and Myanmar expert Bertil Lintner, an author of several books on the country.

“The main success of the government is that it is there. Although with limited powers, it is the first civilian government since 1962. And that gives the people some hope,” he added.

Again, others say Suu Kyi’s to-do-list was just “too big” and she wants to do everything on her own, like when she ran the NLD as political opposition.

“But now, people want results,” said Myanmar academic Dr Khin Zaw Win, adding that “Suu Kyi should delegate some of the mammoth tasks at hand. She should delegate more tasks and authority to some of her ministers. Trying to handle it on her own desk, I think it’s not advisable.”

Up to now, Myanmar remains one of the world’s least developed countries, the second largest producer of opium and was listed among the worst offenders in human trafficking by the U.S. State Department in its recent report. Rife with corruption, the nation ranks 147 out of 168 countries on the latest index of Transparency International.

Just one-third of the population has access to electricity, and firewood remains the primary source of energy fr the rest, which fuels deforestation together with illegal logging, causing environmental degradation. Land grab is rampant, and inadequate infrastructure, limited workforce skills and administrative constraints have stifled the manufacturing sector.

The previous quasi-civilian government of former president Thein Sein has pushed policies to bring economic reform, and in the fiscal year of 2013-2014, Myanmar’s economy grew nearly 8.3 per cent. However, it has been primarily driven by the construction, manufacturing and service sectors in urban areas. In order to thoroughly combat rural poverty, the new government needs to introduce measures to improve the livelihood of the rural poor who still rely solely on agriculture by improving education and infrastructure and by developing alternative economic sectors for them.

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