Suu Kyi Risks Losing Ground To Military Over Rakhine Crisis
Dhaka Courier|October 6, 2017

YANGON • Locals like to joke that Myanmar has two governments. That’s not very far from the truth.

Tan Hui Yee

De facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi, while buttressed by the parliamentary majority held by her National League for Democracy party, has no control over the police and key civil servants who oversee tax collection, land management and a variety of certifications. Those are under the watch of the military, via a Constitution guarded by soldiers guaranteed a quarter of all lawmaker seats.

Myanmar’s civilian government has managed the democratic transition so far through careful positioning. While Ms Suu Kyi has not personally visited Rakhine state, nor spoken out in defence of the stateless Rohingya Muslims there amid troubling stories of military atrocities, she appointed former United Nations secretary-general Kofi Annan to head a commission drawing up long-term solutions.

On Aug 24, the panel announced proposals that raised the hackles of Buddhist nationalists, such as reviewing the discriminatory citizenship law. Ms Suu Kyi’s office promised to set up a ministerial committee to implement the suggestions as soon as possible.

That window for change shut mere hours later when Rohingya insurgents declared war on the Myanmar military with surprise attacks, provoking a brutal response. With some 400,000 Rohingya having fled across the border to Bangladesh, carrying stories of arson, rape and murder by Myanmar security forces, international condemnation of Ms Suu Kyi has been deafening. Her crime was to keep silent on what UN chief Antonio Guterres says is best described as ethnic cleansing.

To the outside world, the Nobel Peace Prize winner is now a fallen icon of democracy. Domestically, she risks losing ground to commander-in-chief Min Aung Hlaing, the man who controls what troops do in Rakhine state.

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