For decades Myanmar’s people dreamed of democracy, but a year into office Aung San Suu Kyi’s elected government is struggling to revive a sluggish economy and shake off the vestiges of the still powerful military.
Aung San Suu Kyi has also somewhat acknowledged this in the Union speech broadcaster on state-run television on Thursday evening.Â She said the government tries its best to be transparent and accountable, while also acknowledging that she is aware of the publicâ€™s frustration with them for not reaching their expectations in all areas.
Suu Kyi explained â€œI have said since the beginning that I would try my best,â€ she explained, adding that, â€œif people think my best effort is not enough for them and if there are any other persons or organizations who can do better than us, we are ready to step back.â€
Her comments came at the time when people are expressing discontent regarding what they perceive as a lack of progress, while the countryâ€™s peace process with ethnic armed groups remains elusive and reports of state security abuses against the Rohingya in the western part of the country has attracted international criticism.
Swept into power on a wave of optimism and hatred of the generals who ruled for 50 years, Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD) vowed to boost prosperity and end decades of bloody civil war.
Peace and national reconciliation were the key points emphasized in State Counselor Daw Aung San Suu Kyiâ€™s State of the Union address, One the day, which marked the first anniversary of the National League for Democracy (NLD) government taking office, she pledged to try harder to serve the people and to earn â€œthe publicâ€™s support, respect and trust.â€
But while “The Lady”, as she is widely known, still draws widespread personal adoration in many areas of the country, dissenting voices are rising, Suu Kyi probably aware of this. Hence it seemed she was quite defensive in her speech.
Daw Aung San Suu Kyi said her government would stand â€œtogether with the peopleâ€â€”the NLDâ€™s new sloganâ€”â€œfor more development, peace and reconciliation in our country [â€¦] based on our diversity.â€
She highlighted developments to the education and health sectors, to infrastructure, and in maximizing the budget, but did not go into the details of the successes in each ministry.
From now on, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi said, regarding economic policies, â€œwe will focus on job creation, infrastructure development in road transport, and access to electricity.â€
Just before her speech in a AFPÂ report it is mentioned that analysts thinksÂ Suu Kyi constantly cutting an increasingly aloof figure, ducking press conferences and remaining silent over a bloody army crackdown on Rohingya Muslims.
Her reticence to speak out on the violence in Rakhine state is fast losing her fans among an international community that was once bedazzled by her power as a rights defender.
Suu Kyi also commented her stance towards international community ,â€œWe value the support, help and sympathy of our friends around the world, in our efforts toward peace and national reconciliation. But we must work ourselves for our countryâ€™s responsibilities, because we are the ones who best understand what our country needs.â€
Thus, she said, the government did not accept the United Nations Human Rights Councilâ€™s recent decision to undertake a fact-finding mission focused on alleged military abuses in Arakan State. â€œIt does not mean we disrespect the UN,â€ Daw Aung San Suu Kyi said. â€œIt is just that it does not correspond with our countryâ€™s [situation].â€
Also Read:Â UN Inquiry Poses Problems for Myanmar Government
The AFP article mentioned, expectations of what the NLD could achieve in a year governing one of Southeast Asia’s poorest countries were unreasonably high, according to Myanmar watchers.
But now many are questioning whether the government will ever be able to piece the country back together.
Suu Kyi has put more emphasis on this unity.Â State councilor addedÂ â€œThe peace process is not easy, but we have a lot of hope,â€ the State Counselor said. â€œEspecially these days, hopes are growing for our second session of the 21st Century Panglong conference.â€
She saidÂ â€œOn the road to peace, sometimes we move forward, or stop for a while or we may even step back a little. But we clearly know our goal and we will move forward to achieve it.â€
“There is a growing sense among the politically engaged urban electorate that the government is not meeting their expectations,” said political analyst Richard Horsey, a consultant for the International Crisis Group.
“Partly, that is because those expectations were inevitably far too high… but partly it is due to government under-performance.”
Most MPs have little or no political experience and many spent years languishing in jail under the former junta that gorged itself and its cronies on Myanmar’s resources and brutally suppressed dissent.
The government is hobbled by a military constitution that bars Suu Kyi from the presidency and guarantees them a quarter of parliament seats — enough to block any changes.
It also gives the army control over the three most important ministries: defence, borders and home affairs.
A prominent NLD lawyer who was trying to scrap the charter, Ko Ni, was murdered in broad daylight at Yangon airport in a killing allegedly masterminded by a former military officer. She asked fellow countrymen to exercise patience in a speech at Ko Ni’s funeral. She said 10 months is not a long time for government in a country’s history.
But many in Myanmar wryly joke that the NLD is just “old wine in a new bottle” — new packaging for a government that still does not listen to its people.
Several of Suu Kyi’s flagship policies are already faltering.
Growth is slowing and foreign investment is expected to fall for the first time in four years, while double-digit inflation is eating up people’s incomes.
Political insiders complain Suu Kyi has concentrated too much power in her own hands and is stifling debate within the party.
Prosecutions against journalists, satirists and activists under a vague online defamation law have meanwhile surged over the past year — several brought by NLD members.
The Lady has also faced criticism for mishandling peace talks with ethnic insurgents in Myanmar’s borderlands, where fighting is at its most intense in decades.
Analysts warn that rising anger in ethnic minority areas could see the NLD lose power to local parties in April 1 by-elections.
“There was hope that the situation would improve under a new government. But it hasn’t, it’s even got worse,” said veteran Myanmar commentator and author Bertil Lintner.
“She’s become a fig leaf for continued military rule.”
Internationally, many have been shocked at Suu Kyi’s silence over an army crackdown on Rohingya Muslims so brutal UN investigators believe it may amount to crimes against humanity.
Last week the UN Human Rights Council agreed to dispatch a fact-finding mission to investigate whether troops had committed atrocities in the north of Rakhine State.
The government has rejected the probe, saying it would only “inflame” tensions, and lashed out at those reporting abuses.
But despite the new government’s teething problems, many still revere “mother Suu” as a saint-like figure who delivered Myanmar from military oppression.
“I’m not convinced public discontent is as widespread as often perceived,” said Renaud Egreteau, a visiting fellow at the ISEAS-YusofIshak Institute, pointing out that the NLD retains strong support in its rural heartlands.
Government advisor Aung Tun Thet said it was too early to judge the NLD.
“We can’t say after a year what the government’s performance has been like an exam. We can’t say if they have passed or failed,” he said.