Myanmar’s de factor leader Aung San Suu Kyi has acknowledged that reforms in the developing country have been slower than expected, while deflecting criticism from the international community of her administration’s handling of ongoing civil wars and a crisis in Rakhine state on the one-year anniversary of her party’s ascension to power.
Aung San Suu Kyi, the country’s first civilian leader in more than a half-century, thanked the Myanmar people for their patience and understanding of her National League for Democracy (NLD) government during its first year in power, as she strives to forge national reconciliation and peace.
“I thank the people for their understanding of the incumbent government,” she said during a speech on Thursday that was broadcast on state-run television. “Our one-year-old administration will continue to march on the road to establishing a federal union with eternal peace and is introducing a new motto for the NLD: ‘Together with the people.’”
“I have said since the beginning that I will try my best, and if 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.”
Aung San Suu Kyi, who also serves as Myanmar’s state counselor and foreign affairs minister, acknowledged that her civilian-led government has come under fire for failing to make headway to end the civil wars between government soldiers and various ethnic armed groups and to deal with allegations that security forces committed atrocities against Rohingya Muslims in Rakhine state.
“The peace process is not easy, but we have a lot of hope. Especially these days, hopes are growing for our second session of the 21st-Century Panglong Conference,” she said in a reference to the peace talks she is spearheading between ethnic militias and the country’s armed forces.
The government planned to hold the second round of the talks, which began late last August, this month, but continued clashes in the country’s Shan and Kachin states have delayed them.
“On the road to peace, sometimes we move forward or stop for a while, or we may even step back a little,” Aung San Suu Kyi said. “But we clearly know our goal, and we will move forward to achieve it.”
On Thursday, the government announced that five more ethnic armed groups will sign its nationwide cease-fire agreement (NCA), joining eight other militias that signed the pact in October 2015.
Rights groups and the international community, which had high hopes for Aung San Suu Kyi’s administration, have been sharply critical of her government’s handling of the recent crisis in the northern part of Rakhine state, where security forces are accused of murdering, raping, and torturing Rohingya Muslims during a four-month crackdown that ended in February.
About 1,000 people died during the security sweep, and 77,000 Rohingya Muslims fled to safety in neighboring Bangladesh, according to estimates by the United Nations.
Last week, the U.S. Human Rights Council said it will dispatch an independent, international fact-finding mission to investigate the alleged recent human rights violations.
Though Aung San Suu Kyi acknowledged the international community for its overall support for her administration, she indicated that she wants outside forces to let Myanmar address its own problems.
“We value the support, help, and sympathy of our friends around the world in our efforts toward peace and national reconciliation,” she said. “But we must work ourselves for our country’s responsibilities, because we are the ones who best understand what our country needs.”
In an essay that appeared on Thursday in Japan’s Nikkei Asian Review, former U.S. ambassador to Myanmar Derek Mitchell suggested that Myanmar listen closely to and seriously consider the concerns expressed by “friends in good faith” and take advantage of opportunities to exercise leadership.
He wrote that the NLD “does not need others to build trust with and among ethnic nationality populations, streamline decision-making, reevaluate ministerial authorities and appointments, [or] outline a detailed economic policy.”
He also suggested that the government “use its absolute parliamentary majority to end regressive legacy laws and pass new progressive legislation, reach out to civil society as partners, develop a visionary strategy for dealing with Rakhine state that ensures security and equal rights for all populations, and offer a vision of the principles on which an emerging new ‘democratic Myanmar’ will be based.”
Reported by RFA’s Myanmar Service. Translated by Khet Mar. Written in English by Roseanne Gerin.