After Victory in Myanmar, Aung San Suu Kyi Quietly Shapes a Transition

News

Naypyitaw (Myanmar); Dec.23: Since her party's thumping election victory last month, Myanmar's democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi has said little and made few public appearances.

So when she emerged recently in her constituency, she was mobbed by reporters and photographers eager for some hint about how her National League for Democracy party will govern after the new Parliament sits next month.

It was not to be. The 70-year-old national icon had come to pick up litter, an exercise described by her party as bringing change through acts of individual responsibility.

During the six weeks since she emerged as the most powerful person in this country of 51 million people, she has kept the country guessing on details of the transfer of power to her democracy movement from the military establishment that has ruled for more than five decades.

She has done a lot of meditating, one aide said. "She says when things are so complicated in her mind, she meditates, and it gives her clarity and gives her simple answers," said Mr Phyo Min Thein, a member of the party's budget committee.

Nonetheless, behind the scenes, a transition is slowly starting to take shape. She has met, behind closed doors, minority ethnic groups, members of her party and crucial figures in the military with whom she will have to share power.

While the participants have given little public indication of what was said, interviews with senior officials suggest that she has quietly conveyed a message that she will not rock the boat too much, too soon.

Ms Suu Kyi has told her party that it would "unwise" to push the military right now, he said. Party members still recall the last election they won - in 1990 - which the military followed up with the arrest of party leaders and two more decades of dictatorial rule.

She has also reassured the bureaucracy, which is packed with former military officers. At a meeting with senior civil servants last week, she told them they should not fear losing their jobs when her party comes to power.

For years, she has said that she wants national reconciliation, not revenge, but she has also promised to shake up the system. Her party's election manifesto calls for a reduction in the number of government ministries to "establish a lean and efficient government".

Before the election, she campaigned extensively to change the Constitution, which was written by the military and has a provision barring her from office.

Her party now appears to be willing to wait. Mr Win Htein said: "We won't be doing anything that will reduce the power of the army for the time being. We have to convince them that we really aim for national reconciliation."

Analysts say it is hard to read how that approach has been received by the military.

In one of the few public read-outs of the meetings she held with the military establishment, the grandson of dictator Than Shwe wrote on Facebook that "everyone has to accept the truth that Daw Aung San Suu Kyi will be the future leader of Myanmar after winning the elections."

More Articles