Hints of a Rift Between Myanmar’s Political Reformers

MAE SOT, Thailand — The first trip abroad in more than two decades by Myanmar’s opposition leader, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, appears to have strained her crucial relationship with President U Thein Sein, who is leading the country’s transformation from military dictatorship to embryonic democracy.

Soon after Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi returned home on Sunday from Thailand, an adviser to Myanmar’s president criticized her for lacking “transparency” in carrying out her trip and for her comments warning international investors against “reckless optimism” about Myanmar.

“Personally, I really admire her, but I have a doubt,” the adviser, U Nay Zin Latt, said in an e-mail. Public criticism of Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi, even in its mildest forms, is rare, partly because she is such a popular figure in the country.

Mr. Nay Zin Latt’s comments were the first by one of President Thein Sein’s advisers — who serve as spokesmen — since the president canceled a trip to Thailand on Friday. The Thai news media are portraying the cancellation as a reaction to Bangkok’s handling of Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi’s visit.

The fact that Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi was allowed back into the country on Sunday was a milestone on Myanmar’s road to national reconciliation. During the periods when she was not under house arrest in the past two decades, she chose not to travel abroad for fear of being denied re-entry by Myanmar’s military rulers.

Yet the discontent over her six-day visit to neighboring Thailand underlines the fragility of her country’s transition.

The complicated and delicate relationship between the president and Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi, a newly elected lawmaker, is in some ways the bedrock of the current reform process in Myanmar, formerly known as Burma. Their meeting in August accelerated the changes sweeping the country and helped persuade Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi to rejoin the political system.

“Most of the improvements in Burma these days are because of the relationship between Thein Sein and Aung San Suu Kyi,” said Win Min, a senior researcher at the Vahu Development Institute, an organization set up by Harvard-trained Burmese exiles that studies issues related to Myanmar. “I’m a little bit worried about their personal relations,” Mr. Win Min said. “If this relationship is strained, it could hurt national reconciliation.”

The abrupt cancellation on Friday of Mr. Thein Sein’s visit to Thailand appears to have been a message to Bangkok — and other governments across the region — that Myanmar’s leader will not tolerate being overshadowed by Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi’s star power.

Thailand and its neighbors are jockeying to participate in the opening up of Myanmar, an almost virgin market that investors hope will offer good returns amid the global economic slowdown.

Underlying the Thai government’s sensitivities toward Myanmar is a huge project for a seaport and joint economic zone in Myanmar that would connect to Thailand and provide access to the Indian Ocean.

Thai Rath, the largest newspaper in Thailand, reported Sunday that Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra said in an interview that she was concerned that Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi’s visit had damaged Thailand’s relationship with Myanmar.

Mr. Thein Sein was “irritated” by Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi’s trip, the newspaper said, adding that Ms. Yingluck had ordered the Thai Foreign Ministry to “clarify” details of the visit to the public.

Myanmar’s government appears to have been most annoyed by Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi’s visit on Saturday to a refugee camp along the Thai-Burmese border, where Myanmar’s government has battled ethnic rebels for decades, and the opposition leader’s remarks at a business conference in Bangkok on Friday at which she urged potential investors in Myanmar to proceed with caution.

Despite the turbulence caused by her trip, it is possible that relations between Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi and the president will remain on an even keel. Many analysts believe that she and Mr. Thein Sein have a rapport, and Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi has said on numerous occasions that she considers the president to be sincere in his desire for political change.

But the potential for discord between them worries people in Myanmar. So far, political change has been a personality-driven process rather than an institutional one, and as Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi told reporters during her visit to Thailand, Mr. Thein Sein does not have an obvious successor. Both she and Mr. Thein Sein are in their late 60s and have health concerns. (Mr. Thein Sein has a heart ailment, and Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi has been forced to rest by her doctors twice in recent weeks.)

The changes in Myanmar have been sudden and with few parallels — military juntas rarely voluntarily yield to civilian control — so analysts hesitate when asked to predict the country’s immediate future. But it seems unlikely that Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi will be placed under house arrest again or forced out of politics, because she retains considerable leverage. Her popularity is overwhelming, and sidelining her would be perilous for any government that tried.
Hints of a Rift Between Myanmar’s Political Reformers Hints of a Rift Between Myanmar’s Political Reformers Reviewed by သစ္ထူးလြင္ on 08:44 Rating: 5

No comments:

Powered by Blogger.