The people of Myanmar have always been able to capture complex issues in pithy, often humorous, ways. One joke currently doing the rounds is that, after decades of trying to get into the driver’s seat of the rickety old bus that is modern Myanmar, State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi has discovered that the steering wheel is not connected, the accelerator does not work and the passengers all want to go in different directions.

Aung San Suu Kyi was never going to meet the expectations of her supporters, both in Myanmar and abroad. They were quite unrealistic, given all the problems she inherited on taking power in March. Every sector of government begged for drastic reform and increased resources. Added to that, several new challenges have arisen over the past eight months that have stretched her inexperienced administration almost to breaking point.

Aung San Suu Kyi compounded these difficulties by making a number of rash promises. For example, she stated that a nation-wide peace agreement with the country’s armed ethnic groups was her ‘single most important goal’. Yet such an outcome was always going to be very difficult to achieve. Another stated aim was to end corruption, a deep-seated problem in Myanmar that few believed could be solved easily or quickly.

Most informed observers have been prepared to cut her some slack, recognising that the new government does not control all the levers of power. The armed forces (or Tatmadaw) are arguably still the country’s most powerful political institution, and they enjoy complete autonomy in military affairs. The economy is dominated by former military officers and their ‘capitalist cronies’. Social, ethnic and religious tensions in the country remain high and have the potential to erupt unexpectedly.

Please click here to read the full “Aung San Suu Kyi’s fall from grace” article in the Interpreter by Griffith Asia Institute Adjunct Associate Professor, Dr Andrew Selth.