Aung San Suu Kyi’s Burden: The Plight of The Rohingyas


September 18, 2018

Aung San Suu Kyi’s Burden: The Plight of The Rohingyas                           

by Bunn Nagara

Image result for aung san suu kyi

The problem with tracing the origins of Myanmar’s current massacres of its Rohingya people is that the starting point goes back many years.

Myanmar’s campaign of genocide has been consistent albeit punctuated by peaks and troughs, with violent discrimination against Muslim Burmese people in Arakan (later renamed Rakhine) state dating to at least 1930. It is easy to forget that until 1982 Rohingyas were still accorded Burmese citizenship, but their treatment by the military government and the general public soon deteriorated sharply. For many observers, the “current round” of mass killings and rapes of Rohingya villagers with looting and burning of their homes began in August last year. There have been many horrendous rounds, with each merging into the next.

More limited and stilted have been international campaigns against Myanmar’s government for allowing, aiding, abetting and participating in the crimes. Even so, the current international campaign reaches back to at least December 2016 when fourteen Nobel laureates including 12 Nobel Peace Prize laureates, with other public figures, urged the UN Security Council to halt the humanitarian crisis confronting the Rohingyas.

Image result for the plight of the rohingya

International opinion has grown steadily against Myanmar State Councillor Aung San Suu Kyi, a once-respected leader in her people’s struggle for democracy. In the 2015 election campaign she boasted that she would be “more powerful than the President,” even though the army-friendly Constitution barred her from running for the presidency. She won the election but has since been less powerful than a presidential poodle. Worse, she has served to deny all the atrocities committed by state forces and reported by credible international monitors, instead condemning Myanmar’s accusers for spreading false news.

Questions about possibly recalling her Nobel Peace Prize arose, then faded away. If the Nobel Committee knew as much about her in 1991 when they presented it as they do now, she might never have received it.

Other awards she received as figurehead of Myanmar’s struggle for democracy have been withdrawn. Oxford University and the US Holocaust Memorial Museum have revoked the prestigious honours they had bestowed on her earlier.

In 2015 the US Holocaust Memorial Museum sent a fact-finding team to Myanmar to observe conditions of the Rohingya community on the ground. They came away horrified that the conditions for genocide were already in place.

Image result for the plight of the rohingya

More critical voices from concerned distinguished persons were heard from around the world. The Dalai Lama reproached Myanmar’s mostly “Buddhist” mass murderers, saying that Buddha himself would have helped the Rohingyas.

The spotlight remained on Suu Kyi as the country’s (nominal) leader. Last year Yanghee Lee, the UN’s Special Rapporteur on Human Rights, called on Suu Kyi to issue a statement but she remained silent.

Increasingly, Suu Kyi’s stubbornness has made her criticise the critics of Myanmar’s genocide while denying any crimes had taken place. This month, Prince Zeid bin Ra’ad Zeid al-Hussein, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, said Suu Kyi should have resigned if she could do or say nothing against the military’s crimes against humanity.

The UN Security Council visited Myanmar in March, with plans for a fact-finding mission to investigate the situation. Myanmar banned the mission, which then had to interview hundreds of Rohingya refugees fleeing to neighbouring Bangladesh.

The report of the mission names six senior military officers who should be put on trial at the International Criminal Court. It also blames Suu Kyi for doing nothing to stop the mass atrocities.

In turning things around by inverting the truth, Myanmar’s government rejected the report outright. Instead it blames those responsible for producing what amounted to a pack of lies.

Image result for the plight of the rohingya

Myanmar officials should know about telling lies. The army’s public relations unit called True News produced a book with photos allegedly showing Rohingyas attacking other locals. Reuters examined the photos and found that they came from somewhere else – Bangladesh’s 1971 independence war, when Pakistani troops attacked Bangladeshis.

Government and military spokesmen could not be reached for comment. An Information Ministry official declined comment by saying that he had not seen the book, which is on sale publicly.

After the international community had pressured Myanmar to take back the hundreds of thousands of refugees it had expelled, it announced the return of a family of five Rohingyas from Bangladesh in April.

Bangladesh immediately denied that had happened. An independent refugee expert agreed with Bangladesh, saying that Myanmar’s claim of repatriation was yet another publicity stunt.

Meanwhile Myanmar’s verification process for Rohingya returnees remains obstructive. Among the requirements is that the Rohingyas must renounce their claim to ever being a citizen of Myanmar, placing them officially as illegal migrants liable for deportation. Rohingyas want to return home to rebuild, so long as they can enjoy basic human rights and freedom from persecution. Myanmar only has to agree to this.

It is difficult to see how Myanmar can agree to anything decent given all that has happened and continues to happen. Rohingya men, women and children have been slaughtered or otherwise terrorised and their homes razed in driving them from their land.

Image result for the plight of the rohingya

There may be valuable minerals in the ground in Rakhine state, and politicians, business people and the military may exploit them better if the population was cleared or reduced. Hence, “ethnic cleansing.”

The Myanmar military or Tatmadaw has fought internal wars with dozens of ethnic minority groups, some of which have become defunct or which have been engaged in talks with the government.

At least nine militant ethnic groups remain. Yet the Rohingyas are not among them, since they are not even recognised as an ethnic minority. Rohingyas are the most persecuted of all the minority communities also because they have fought back the least. The Tatmadaw’s bullying style is to target the weakest the most.

The Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (Arsa) has conducted some sporadic operations against the army, but nothing like the other ethnic minority armies. The Tatmadaw then exploits Arsa’s resistance efforts as a pretext to persecute Rohingyas further.

Even as Suu Kyi joins her generals as international pariahs, Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull feted her in Sydney in March. Within 23 weeks Turnbull was removed as Prime Minister, and in another week he had left Parliament altogether. Would Suu Kyi go down a similar road?

It is no longer a secret that the real power in Myanmar still lies with the military. Suu Kyi may be afraid that if she did anything decent about the Rohingyas she may be out of a job.

She is known to have said: “It is not power that corrupts but fear. Fear of losing power corrupts those who wield it”. Has she been corrupted by power? She may say no, if only because she never had it. Then she should have no fear of losing what she never had.

She has also said: “The only real prison is fear, and the only real freedom is freedom from fear.” The Myanmar military has allowed her outside her house for some time now. But will she allow herself to enjoy real freedom?

She may have no power over the Tatmadaw, but she has power over her own actions. Rohingyas hope their leader will let them enjoy freedom too.

Bunn Nagara is a Senior Fellow at ISIS Malaysia.
http://www.thestar.com.

ASEAN: Myanmar, Aung San Suu Kyi and the Rohinnya Genocide


September 8, 2018

ASEAN: Myanmar, Aung San Suu Kyi and  the Rohinnya Genocide

by Bunn Nagara

http://www.thestar.com.my

THE problem with tracing the origins of Myanmar’s current massacres of its Rohingya people is that the starting point goes back many years.

Image result for aung san suu kyi quotes

Myanmar’s campaign of genocide has been consistent albeit punctuated by peaks and troughs, with violent discrimination against Muslim Burmese people in Arakan (later renamed Rakhine) state dating to at least 1930. It is easy to forget that until 1982 Rohingyas were still accorded Burmese citizenship, but their treatment by the military government and the general public soon deteriorated sharply. For many observers, the “current round” of mass killings and rapes of Rohingya villagers with looting and burning of their homes began in August last year. There have been many horrendous rounds, with each merging into the next.

More limited and stilted have been international campaigns against Myanmar’s government for allowing, aiding, abetting and participating in the crimes. Even so, the current international campaign reaches back to at least December 2016 when fourteen Nobel laureates including 12 Nobel Peace Prize laureates, with other public figures, urged the UN Security Council to halt the humanitarian crisis confronting the Rohingyas.

Related image

International opinion has grown steadily against Myanmar State Councillor Aung San Suu Kyi, a once-respected leader in her people’s struggle for democracy. In the 2015 election campaign she boasted that she would be “more powerful than the President,” even though the army-friendly Constitution barred her from running for the presidency. She won the election but has since been less powerful than a presidential poodle. Worse, she has served to deny all the atrocities committed by state forces and reported by credible international monitors, instead condemning Myanmar’s accusers for spreading false news.

Questions about possibly recalling her Nobel Peace Prize arose, then faded away. If the Nobel Committee knew as much about her in 1991 when they presented it as they do now, she might never have received it.

Other awards she received as figurehead of Myanmar’s struggle for democracy have been withdrawn. Oxford University and the US Holocaust Memorial Museum have revoked the prestigious honours they had bestowed on her earlier. In 2015 the US Holocaust Memorial Museum sent a fact-finding team to Myanmar to observe conditions of the Rohingya community on the ground. They came away horrified that the conditions for genocide were already in place.

Image result for the rohingya genocide and The Dalai Lama

More critical voices from concerned distinguished persons were heard from around the world. The Dalai Lama reproached Myanmar’s mostly “Buddhist” mass murderers, saying that Buddha himself would have helped the Rohingyas.

The spotlight remained on Suu Kyi as the country’s (nominal) leader. Last year Yanghee Lee, the UN’s special rapporteur on human rights, called on Suu Kyi to issue a statement but she remained silent.

Increasingly, Suu Kyi’s stubbornness has made her criticise the critics of Myanmar’s genocide while denying any crimes had taken place. This month, Prince Zeid bin Ra’ad Zeid al-Hussein, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, said Suu Kyi should have resigned if she could do or say nothing against the military’s crimes against humanity.

The UN Security Council visited Myanmar in March, with plans for a fact-finding mission to investigate the situation. Myanmar banned the mission, which then had to interview hundreds of Rohingya refugees fleeing to neighbouring Bangladesh.

The report of the mission names six senior military officers who should be put on trial at the International Criminal Court. It also blames Suu Kyi for doing nothing to stop the mass atrocities.

In turning things around by inverting the truth, Myanmar’s government rejected the report outright. Instead it blames those responsible for producing what amounted to a pack of lies.

Myanmar officials should know about telling lies. The army’s public relations unit called True News produced a book with photos allegedly showing Rohingyas attacking other locals. Reuters examined the photos and found that they came from somewhere else – Bangladesh’s 1971 independence war, when Pakistani troops attacked Bangladeshis.

Government and military spokesmen could not be reached for comment. An Information Ministry official declined comment by saying that he had not seen the book, which is on sale publicly.

After the international community had pressured Myanmar to take back the hundreds of thousands of refugees it had expelled, it announced the return of a family of five Rohingyas from Bangladesh in April.

Bangladesh immediately denied that had happened. An independent refugee expert agreed with Bangladesh, saying that Myanmar’s claim of repatriation was yet another publicity stunt.

Meanwhile Myanmar’s verification process for Rohingya returnees remains obstructive. Among the requirements is that the Rohingyas must renounce their claim to ever being a citizen of Myanmar, placing them officially as illegal migrants liable for deportation. Rohingyas want to return home to rebuild, so long as they can enjoy basic human rights and freedom from persecution. Myanmar only has to agree to this.

It is difficult to see how Myanmar can agree to anything decent given all that has happened and continues to happen. Rohingya men, women and children have been slaughtered or otherwise terrorised and their homes razed in driving them from their land.

There may be valuable minerals in the ground in Rakhine state, and politicians, business people and the military may exploit them better if the population was cleared or reduced. Hence, “ethnic cleansing.”

The Myanmar military or Tatmadaw has fought internal wars with dozens of ethnic minority groups, some of which have become defunct or which have been engaged in talks with the government.

At least nine militant ethnic groups remain. Yet the Rohingyas are not among them, since they are not even recognised as an ethnic minority. Rohingyas are the most persecuted of all the minority communities also because they have fought back the least. The Tatmadaw’s bullying style is to target the weakest the most.

The Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (Arsa) has conducted some sporadic operations against the army, but nothing like the other ethnic minority armies. The Tatmadaw then exploits Arsa’s resistance efforts as a pretext to persecute Rohingyas further.

Even as Suu Kyi joins her generals as international pariahs, Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull feted her in Sydney in March. Within 23 weeks Turnbull was removed as Prime Minister, and in another week he had left Parliament altogether. Would Suu Kyi go down a similar road?

It is no longer a secret that the real power in Myanmar still lies with the military. Suu Kyi may be afraid that if she did anything decent about the Rohingyas she may be out of a job.

She is known to have said: “It is not power that corrupts but fear. Fear of losing power corrupts those who wield it”. Has she been corrupted by power? She may say no, if only because she never had it. Then she should have no fear of losing what she never had.

She has also said: “The only real prison is fear, and the only real freedom is freedom from fear.”The Myanmar military has allowed her outside her house for some time now. But will she allow herself to enjoy real freedom? She may have no power over the Tatmadaw, but she has power over her own actions. Rohingyas hope their leader will let them enjoy freedom too.

Bunn Nagara is a Senior Fellow at ISIS Malaysia.

Aung San Suu Kyi was never the Heroine of Human Rights Community


July 21, 2018

Aung San Suu Kyi was never the Heroine of Human Rights Community

by Napat Rungsrithananaon

http://www.asiasentinel.com

Image result for aung san suu kyi from human rights activist to a racist

Talk is cheap; Action demands Courage and Compassion, Madam

Before coming to power in a landslide victory for her party, the National League for Democracy, Aung San Suu Kyi was widely perceived as the embodiment of hope, a brave symbol of defiance against the Myanmar military dictatorship and a heroine of the human rights community.  It is a perception that has sadly collapsed, having foundered on the treatment of the country’s Muslim Rohingya population, who make up just 4 percent of the country’s 53 million population.

This week, Suu Kyi and Senior General Min Aung Hliang have convened a five-day conference in Naypyidaw, the country’s administrative capital, meeting with representatives of the country’s long-oppressed ethnic minorities in an effort to reach a lasting peace. The off-delayed 21st Century Panglong Conference is given little prospect of success by analysts. But for the country’s Muslim Rohingya minority, the chances for success are even less.

Related image

Aung San Suu Kyi, look yourself in the mirror, instead of pointing fingers at genocide victims

Among the Oxford-educated Suu Kyi’s many honors is the Nobel Peace Prize, awarded in 1991 for her non-violent struggle for democracy and human rights, having spent 15 of her 21 years in the country under house arrest. In her 2012 acceptance speech more than 20 years after being awarded the prize, Suu Kyi reaffirmed her values. She spoke about creating “a world free from the displaced, the homeless and the hopeless” and “a world of which each and every corner is a true sanctuary where the inhabitants will have the freedom and the capacity to live in peace.”

That same year, however, saw an outbreak of communal violence in Myanmar that resulted in the displacement of more than 100,000 Rohingya people who were forced into makeshift refugee camps. At least 200 people were killed in clashes between Buddhist and Muslim communities in Rakhine state, a territory of 3.1 million people on Myanmar’s west coast.

Although Muslims have been in Myanmar since at least the 9th century, their numbers increased markedly during British imperial rule. Nonetheless, the majority Buddhists, who make up 90 percent of the country’s population regard them as interlopers.  The violent blow-up generated by ethnic differences has largely discredited the country’s heralded transition to democracy, which began in 2010.

As the leader of the opposition at the time, Suu Kyi at first deflected the blame and responsibility to the government, claiming that the crisis was “the result of our sufferings under a dictatorial regime” which in turn created a “climate of mistrust.” Once in power as State Councillor, the equivalent of Prime Minister, she pledged to “abide by our commitment to human rights and democratic values.”

Fast forward six years, the crisis shows no sign of abating. In fact, it escalated further when government troops launched a massive security operation in response to coordinated attacks in October 2106 by the militant Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army, resulting in the deaths of nine police.  A second attack occurred in August 2017, with more than 30 onslaughts against police posts in northern Rakhine state.

Since the onset of the crisis, outside observers have continued to document numerous mass atrocities including widespread killings, torture and rape committed by Myanmar’s army and other state security forces. As widely reported, more than 717,000 people have fled to Bangladesh since August 2017. Zeid Raad Al Hussein, the UN Human rights chief, has called the security operation in Myanmar “a textbook example of ethnic cleansing.”

Having joined the government, Suu Kyi could no longer deflect the blame and responsibility. Unfortunately, her response has not been any more commendable. She has repeatedly failed to speak out against the violence inflicted on the Rohingya or address the allegation of ethnic cleansing, insisting that the crisis was instigated by “terrorists” and distorted by a “huge iceberg of misinformation” – something her government has bizarrely continued to maintain by obstructing independent investigations into the crisis.

Barring the UN special rapporteur on human rights in Myanmar from entering the country, the government has offered a further indication that whatever is being concealed in the Rakhine state must be something terrible.

Suu Kyi’s refusal to condemn the violence or attempt to lead her government away from it has made her the target of worldwide criticism as her country’s military wages its campaign of ethnic cleansing.

Image result for aung san suu kyi from human rights activist to a racist

Her defenders argue that while she makes the majority of important decisions, the military retains control of three crucial ministries – home affairs, defense and border affairs – and is hence the real power in northern Rakhine state and along the border with Bangladesh. There is therefore an argument that Suu Kyi is in fact powerless – that she is not in charge of decisions capable of alleviating the suffering of Rohingya or that she cannot do so without risking the stability of the whole country. While that argument is popular among her supporters, it doesn’t explain her failure to at least speak up for the Rohingya.

But it is more likely that the world got Suu Kyi wrong from the beginning, that she was never really truly a political saint. Western leaders have a tendency to champion individuals – often activists who have made high-profile heroic sacrifices – as one-stop solutions to the problems of dictatorship or shaky new democracy. Then, in their zeal to find simple solutions to complex situations, they overlook their champions’ flaws, fail to see the fundamental challenges of being in power and assume that countries are the products of their leaders – when it is almost always the other way around.

Looking back, there were early signs that Suu Kyi might not after all be a determinedly unquestioned champion of human rights. In a 2013 interview with the BBC, for instance, she refused to acknowledge the rising violence directed at the Rohingya and pointed out that Buddhists had also been displaced from their homes and similarly subject to violence.

Image result for the plight of the rohingya

Then she went on to claim that Myanmar as a whole – as do many other parts of the world – live in fear of “global Muslim power.” Instead of raising eyebrows, this Islamophobic remark went largely unnoticed, with Western leaders continuing to embrace her advancement.

Leaving aside her more recent effort to consolidate and centralize her authority – she also serves as foreign minister and the chair of various committees – it should still be reasonably clear that the world might have really got her wrong from the beginning. A champion of human rights and democracy could not have possibly made such an Islamophobic remark.

Andrew Selth, a professor at the Griffith Asia Institute, sums up the issue very neatly when he writes: “If Suu Kyi had so far to fall, it is because the international community raised her so high.”

Napat Rungsrithananaon is an intern at Free the Slaves. 

Malaysia: Makan Rasuah, not Chicken Rendang


April 11, 2018

Malaysia: Makan Rasuah, not Chicken Rendang

by Mariam Mokhtar

http://www.malaysiakini.com

COMMENT | Last week, two half-baked English judges decided that the chicken rendang cooked by Zaleha Kadir Olpin, in the MasterChef competition, did not pass muster, because it was not crispy.

Pandemonium broke out, when Malaysians, and expats, throughout the world, took to social media, to defend the cook and the humble rendang.

Image result for chicken rendang recipe malaysian

If only Malaysians would show the same anger and contempt for leaders who makan rasuah (accept bribes); we would not be in the deep mess that mires the country, now.

The rendang-gate scandal showed that deep down, neither class, race, religion nor nationality mattered. So, real unity was displayed because of a makanan rendang (rendang dish).

Ask anyone about Malaysia, and he will talk about the food. Never the sun-swept beaches, the pristine jungles or the multi-cultural people. It is always the food.

Makanan (food) is the root word but the simpulan bahasa (idioms) associated with makan, are apt descriptions for current day Malaysia. Makan darah. Makan diri. Makan gaji. Makan jalan. Makan rasuah. Makan suap. Makan tidor.

Back to the MasterChef judges. If they wanted crispy chicken, there must be umpteen KFCs to satisfy their cravings. Perhaps, the nearest KFC had run out of chicken, but that is no reason to denigrate both the cook and the chicken rendang.

If the judges were to visit Malaysia, they could gorge on MFC – Mamak Fried Chicken, a more spicy and Malaysian version of KFC, at any of the mamak stalls.

Image result for Najib Razak with Malcom Turnbull

The corruption destroying Malaysia is not an overnight phenomenon. The seeds were sown during the tenure of former prime minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad, but the 93-year-old has admitted his mistakes and is willing to right his wrongs. That is no mean feat. A man, as arrogant as he, is willing to eat humble pie and work with his former adversaries, to save and rebuild Malaysia.

During the height of his powers, Mahathir was the man with the plan to industrialise Malaysia, in a hurry. He may have left the details to his lieutenants, who then abused his policies. Who knows?

Fast forward to today. So much for Najib Abdul Razak and UMNO-Baru, who keep harping on about the seeds of discord sown by Mahathir.

If Najib had any credibility, he would have overturned the NEP, the affirmative action policies, eliminated nepotism and cronyism, and all the problems which he blamed on Mahathir. The fact that Najib did not change anything, just shows his insincerity.

Najib holds all the power, but he has done nothing to stop corruption. The institutions which could have stopped money politics, such as law enforcement agencies, the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC), Registry of Societies (ROS), the judiciary and the investigative bodies, have been compromised. Their ineptitude has exacerbated the problem.

We see this in everyday situations

Some people in power, makan suap (accept bribes) from those who want to escape prosecution. We see this in everyday situations, such as people who want to escape traffic violations or prosecution.

You’ve read about people overtaking and pushing others off the road, or heads of department who use the emergency lane, when they are impatient with the gridlocked traffic. People who makan jalan are breaking the law, but more often than not, the heads of government departments are let off with a minimal fine.

The goods and services tax (GST) causes much suffering among people who makan gaji (ordinary wage-earners). Some companies charge excessively high prices for services or goods. This makan darah (overcharging) adds to the burden of the ordinary taxpayer.

The Mat Rempit, or Red Shirts, are under Najib’s patronage, via Jamal Yunos, the Red Shirts leader. Malaysians fume because we are subsidising all these people who we know are makan tidor (do not work but who reap benefits, nevertheless).

Why do manifestations of the various “makan” idioms, fail to elicit a response from the rakyat?

Image result for aung san suu kyi

When the Heads of States of the ASEAN nations met in Sydney on March 17, the various Southeast Asian communities – Vietnamese, Cambodian, Laos, Burmese and Filipino, organised demonstrations against their leaders, for example, Aung Sun Suu Kyi (pic above).

Najib must have been the most talked about and most vilified ASEAN leader on the international stage, but there were no Malaysian-led demonstrations. Why? The PM’s makan rasuah, and alleged theft of billions of ringgits of the taxpayer’s money made little impact, unlike the makanan ayam rendang debacle.

Come on Malaysians! With GE14, let us start on a clean slate and start publicly shaming those who makan suap, makan rasuah and makan darah by first hounding out the corrupt politicians who makan tidor.


MARIAM MOKHTAR is a defender of the truth, the admiral-general of the Green Bean Army and president of the Perak Liberation Organisation (PLO). Blog, Twitter.

The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of Malaysiakini.

 

Myanmar’s Politicians are gloomy


August  9, 2013

Out of their league

https://www.economist.com/sections/asia

After two years of civilian rule, Myanmar’s politicians are gloomy

The National League for Democracy is struggling to make its mark

Print edition | Asia

Image result for Tin Tin Win

Dr. Tin Tin Win (pic above) never imagined she would become a politician. In Taungoo, a midsized city in the Burmese plains, she is mostly known as a family doctor. But three years ago she was asked to run for parliament by the National League for Democracy (NLD), the political party led by Aung San Suu Kyi, the activist whose long campaign for democracy was instrumental in ending military rule in Myanmar. She enthusiastically answered the call, and won.

Today her mood has dampened. She sits through long, boring parliamentary sessions in Naypyidaw, Myanmar’s purpose-built capital. Sometimes she wonders what the point of it all is. She once sponsored a motion to introduce sex education in schools (she has seen too many desperate pregnant teenagers at her clinic). But her own party took it off the agenda without much explanation. Only halfway through her term, she has already decided that she will not run again in 2020.

Related image

Portrait of  the late Hanthawaddy TU Win Tin,NLD Party Elder, (12 March 1930 – 21 April 2014) by Kenneth Wong

After he was released from prison in 2008, Hanthawaddy U Win Tin, Burma’s veteran journalist and political prisoner, received a visit from a policeman. The officer wanted something that, by protocol, the freed man should have left behind on the day he walked out of In Sein Jail — his blue prison shirt.  In his view, as long as the country was under the dictates of the 2008 Constitution, drafted and approved by the former military regime, true freedom still remained a farfetched dream. To show his solidarity with the political prisoners still behind bars, he continued to don his trademark blue shirt in all public appearances. 

March 30th marked two years since the army ceded power to the NLD. But it left in place a constitution that exempts it from civilian control, puts it in charge of internal security and grants it a quarter of seats in parliament, massively curtailing the new government’s authority. The constitution also deliberately bars Ms Suu Kyi from the presidency, as the parent of foreigners (her children are British citizens). Ms Suu Kyi has at least got around that: she is, in her own words, “above the president”. In late March the placeman she had installed in the presidency announced on Facebook that he was resigning to “take a rest”. Parliament promptly elected a new one, Win Myint, an NLD loyalist like his predecessor. Little will change as a result. Ms Suu Kyi remains firmly in charge.

Image result for Tin Tin Win

Some things have improved markedly since the NLD took office. Myanmar has jumped up Transparency International’s corruption index, a survey based on public perceptions. Citizens are also much freer to speak their minds than they used to be. But NLD politicians are novices who struggle to put ideas into practice. Some were first elected in 1990, but were never allowed to take their seats in parliament. Instead, the army put many of them in jail. While Ms Suu Kyi runs the country, a clique of these ageing former political prisoners runs the party. They are not running much. The NLD is more a fan club than a party articulating policies and training future leaders. As a party whip puts it, “NLD minus Aung San Suu Kyi equals nearly zero.”

Image result for Tin Tin Win with Aung San Suu Kyi

The Man in Blue with Aung San Suu Kyi

The new generation of MPs, elected in 2015, come from all walks of life: they are dentists, vets, journalists, teachers and entrepreneurs. They tend to be younger than their predecessors, and even though they admire Ms Suu Kyi, they are not as deferential as the old guard. They are energetic but disillusioned. “We want to catch elephants, but we can’t even catch ants,” sighs a freshly minted lawmaker. Like his colleague, Tin Tin Win, he will not run again. Anyone could do his job, he says.

The NLD is also cutting itself off from people with ideas. Foreign advisers are regarded with growing suspicion because of their complaints about Myanmar’s persecution of the Rohingya Muslim minority. Parliament is cooking up legislation to curb the activities of the UN and international NGOs. The NLD is even more hostile towards home-grown activists. The government has passed a law making it easier for police to ban protests. Mael Raynaud, a long-term observer of Burmese politics, notes that the NLD’s imprisoned leaders did not witness the blossoming of civil society in the 2000s thanks to a loosening up by the army and in response to a devastating cyclone. Years of repression also fostered paranoia, which has left the NLD prizing loyalty over competence.

The previous government, led by reformist generals, was hungry for legitimacy and hoped to redeem itself by instigating rapid change. The NLD has a mammoth popular mandate but doesn’t have a clear idea of what to do with it. Things were easier before, says Sandar Min, a long-term NLD member. “When we were fighting the military we had a clearly defined enemy. Now it’s not clear.”

This article appeared in the Asia section of the print edition under the headline “Out of their league”