The release of pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi in 2010 was a moment to remember for many Burmese after a long-standing house detention sentence by the then Burmese military government. This defining moment was not only seen as a triumph for future political reforms in the government but also a trajectory to take the country forward. The regimental State Peace and Development Council (SDPC) that controlled Myanmar since 1988 was eventually dissolved in 2011 shortly after the release of Aung.
Fast forward to the results of general election in 2015, where Aung has led her party (National League for Democracy, NLD) to an overwhelming victory that achieved 81.9% of the available seating in the government. Now, let’s look into how Myanmar has been under Aung’s leadership and the shadow of post-junta politics.
Present versus Past
With key ministries and agencies are still very much under the control of military politics when the new government takes over, Aung’s and her party faced great resistance to have a smooth power transition. This even include keeping the essential law and order when comes to the swearing ceremony of President Htin Kway shortly after the election, where her party needs to make compromise with the military to ensure the event proceed without interruption. Moreover, the officials are used to a top-down system that receives direct orders and little or no accountability for results was the norm that NLD has to deal with progressively.
Likewise, overnight reform does not happen realistically and it will take double or triple the time to completely erase the memories of the past ,and march forward to the future at peace.
Realization of 2015 Campaign Promises
The jubilation of Aung’s victory in 2015 encompassed a huge void and freedom to fill. Citizens that have been suppressed under the junta regime and younger generation are both looking forward to a brighter future promised by the NLD. Of the twenty-page manifesto, the promise to reform the constitutional to eject military influences from the government is a key to many that has yet to be delivered till date. The campaign also promised economic development including improvements in country’s infrastructure and agricultural transformation did not take off as how NLD would expected to be. Not to be undone by the situation, one of the silver lining amidst the pressure is the enactment of Companies Act in 2018, where foreign investors and companies can look forward to doing business easier in the country.
Controversy on Human Rights
In recent years, Aung has been criticized for failing to act when a genocide took place in her own backyard against Rohingya crisis where thousands of families have been displaced out of their homes. This saga has tarnished her international reputation as the Nobel peace winner in 1991 who once promised her people freedom and was eventually formally stripped of the Freedom of the city of Oxford. While this incident did not affect her popularity in Myanmar where crowds was seen in the park to cheer her on when she attended hearings in relation to the genocide that drove 730,000 Rohingya into Bangladesh. It remains to be seen if she can hold on this popularity vote to steer NLD into a second victory come 2020 General Election, not withstanding the rising threat of new Democratic parties and growing frustration over the lack of economic developments.
Perhaps, it is hard to imagine a framework or system under the influence of a certain style for years can be reformed within a short span of five years. Likewise, overnight reform does not happen realistically and it will take double or triple the time to completely erase the memories of the past, and march forward to the future at peace.