Support for Myanmar's Suu Kyi strong after 100 days in power

4:17 pm on 16 July 2016

Analysis - It's been 100 days since Myanmar's first civilian government in more than 50 years took office, but Aung San Suu Kyi's report card is mixed, with important policy still not laid out in some areas.

State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi.

State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi. Photo: AFP

Following decades of military rule, Burma elected its first civilian government in a landslide election in November last year. Led by President Htin Kyaw and State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi, the political structure is unusual as Daw Suu Kyi is above the president, in an arrangement forced by the country's current constitution which does not allow the "leader" to have children born outside the country.

One hundred days into her first term, Ms Suu Kyi's grip on power has become more visible and support from across the country has remained strong, despite some political activists questioning her sometimes authoritarian style, her selection of cabinet ministers with no political experience, and the perceived sluggish performance of the fledgling government.

As predicted by some commentators at the time of last year's election, the new government's policies and performance are being called into question and in spite of high hopes initially, political momentum is beginning to slow as the country begins to grasp the extent of the political and social challenges ahead. While huge amounts of work have been done to review and reform the country's legislation across many areas, change is slow to come in a country that spent decades in a suspended state under the thumb of the military.

The NDP government has set national reconciliation and peace in Myanmar as one of its top priorities, with the goal of sorting out the myriad issues presented by restive provinces equipped with their own armed forces, some of which have been fighting the Tatmadaw - the Burmese Army - for decades.

Ms Suu Kyi's priority so far has been on preparing for the vital upcoming national peace conference scheduled for late August.

The meeting's been dubbed the "21st Century Panglong Conference," in reference to the Panglong Agreement of 1947, which was signed by Ms Suu Kyi's father, General Aung San, and leaders from Shan, Kachin and Chin minority groups on the eve of Burma's independence from Britain.

The agreement proposed "full autonomy in internal administration" for Burma's ethnic minority "frontier" regions. Like her father, Ms Suu Kyi has promised to develop a federal union in an ethnically diverse and conflicted nation.

Ethnic armed groups that refused to sign last year's nationwide ceasefire agreement with the previous government have expressed interest in participating in the peace conference, but many commentators have doubts over whether a lasting and inclusive ceasefire agreement will come from it.

Aung San Suu Kyi accompanied by military and police officials during a visit to a police training school in Yamethin township last month.

Aung San Suu Kyi accompanied by military and police officials during a visit to a police training school in Yamethin township last month. Photo: AFP / Ministry of Information

The Burmese Army also has issues with allowing the presence at the conference of at least three armed ethnic groups they are currently fighting with in various parts of the country.

In a bid to lay some foundation for the August meeting, Aung San Suu Kyi has announced she will meet with the "United Nationalities Federal Council" in Yangon next week.

It will be the first time the UNFC, a group of Burma's major ethnic armed groups, has held talks with the government; the previous Thein Sein administration having only met with armed groups individually.

This is the first time Myanmar has seen an elected civilian government since 1962. But despite that significant landmark, the military-drafted 2008 Constitution is still in place and 25 percent of parliamentary seats remain reserved for military appointees, giving them veto power over constitutional amendments.

The army also still controls of three significant ministries: home affairs, defence and border affairs.

One hundred days into her first term, Aung San Suu Kyi's report card is mixed, with important policy still not laid out in some areas - including the economy.

Next month's meeting over ethnic tensions will be another significant test of her abilities as leader.

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