The democratically elected government in Myanmar under Aung San Suu Kyi has so far disappointed many voters and international observers. Her supporters blame the military for the government’s shortcomings, but this argument remains unconvincing.
The National League for Democracy (NLD) has been in power in Myanmar for over a year now, following its landslide victory in the November 2015 elections. In March 2016, a new president and government were sworn in; and the next month Nobel Peace Laureate Aung San Suu Kyi became the country’s de facto leader under the newly minted title of state counsellor.
Hopes were high that the new administration would introduce sweeping changes to the country, which had endured more than 50 years of inept and self-serving military rule. It was a mood encouraged by promises made by Aung San Suu Kyi during the election campaign—to reduce the power of the armed forces (known as the Tatmadaw), change the 2008 pro-military constitution and end corruption. However, the verdict on the NLD’s first year in office, by international commentators at least, has been almost uniformly negative.
When it took office, the NLD inherited a wide range of complex problems, some of which had defied resolution since the British colonial era (1824-1948). President Thein Sein’s government (2011-2015) had taken tentative steps toward reform, but it had only picked the low-hanging fruit. Critical political, economic and social problems had been largely ignored. In 2016, every portfolio of government apart from defence was begging for greater attention and more resources.
There has been modest progress in some areas, but the NLD government and Aung San Suu Kyi herself have been criticised for failing to keep their election promises and deliver long-awaited reforms. Peace negotiations with ethnic armed groups have stalled. ‘Area clearance operations’ by the security forces against the Muslim Rohingyas have been condemned by the United Nations and others as “genocide” and “ethnic cleansing”. Aung San Suu Kyi’s refusal to address this issue has attracted widespread condemnation.
Please click here to read the full “Aung San Suu Kyi and the Tatmadaw” article in the Australian Outlook by Griffith Asia Institute Adjunct Associate Professor, Dr Andrew Selth.