RANGOON—A state-run newspaper called Aung San Suu Kyi and President Thein Sein “the hope of Myanmar”—rare praise for the opposition leader that was tempered with worry that possible tensions between the two reform-minded politicians could derail changes in the long-oppressed country.
An opinion piece published on Tuesday in The New Light of Myanmar followed Suu Kyi’s trip to Thailand last week, her first outside Burma in 24 years. Thein Sein had also been scheduled to attend the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Bangkok, but his visit was canceled amid speculation that he was irritated at being upstaged and annoyed that Suu Kyi visited refugees on the Thai border.
Officials for both leaders, however, have denied any tensions. Government officials said Thein Sein put off traveling to Thailand because he was busy with affairs at home.
The article, purportedly written by a US-based Burmese expatriate, urged the two leaders to continue the cooperation they began last year but warned that “this golden opportunity will be lost” if their fragile detente breaks down.
“We want no suspicion between the two leaders and between individuals and organizations behind them,” the article said.
“We would also like to call on the two leaders to embrace a fine tradition that serves the sole interest of the people, setting aside differences, egoism and selfishness that were born together with the independence. Let our dream come true,” it added.
The New Light of Myanmar article also included veiled warnings to Suu Kyi that she must follow “the rule of law.” The article appeared to warn her over her party’s support of recent public protests over power shortages and its intention to try to revise the country’s Constitution, which it considers undemocratic because its gives the military a special say in government including 25 percent of parliamentary seats.
In a subsequent article published on Wednesday in the same newspaper, an editorial titled “Let’s strive in harmony and unison” by Saw Myawady also praised the Nobel Laureate in general while questioning some of her actions during the WEF.
“[Suu Kyi] warned against what she called ‘reckless optimism’ in Myanmar,” said the article. “I am afraid entrepreneurs present there would interpret it as implication of caution against investment in Myanmar.
“Her words can be interpreted as it is not sufficiently reliable and/or of no use whatever law in enacted because the rule of law is still weak and judicial system is corrupt. I am afraid that this would impede potential investment,” the author wrote before outlining the benefits foreign capital would have for education, employment and standards of living in Burma.
Suu Kyi and her National League for Democracy party have endorsed reforms initiated by Thein Sein following decades of repressive military rule. Suu Kyi won a seat in the army-backed legislature in April, giving her an official role in government for the first time.
During her long years in opposition to Burma’s previous military regimes, much of it spent under house arrest, Suu Kyi was regularly lambasted in the state-owned dailies as someone akin to a traitor. News coverage of her was negligible, but commentaries—often appearing under a pseudonym to allow a degree of deniability on the part of the government—were the usual vehicles for such criticism.
Tuesday’s article, titled “To the leaders who are the hope of Myanmar,” indicated that it was prompted by reports of tension between Thein Sein and Suu Kyi after the latter’s visit to Thailand.
Nyan Win, a spokesman for the National League for Democracy, said Tuesday that Suu Kyi’s visit had not “adversely affected the relationship between the president and her.”
“In her speeches in Bangkok, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi has expressed her confidence in the president. There should not be any misunderstanding between them,” Nyan Win said. “Daw” is an honorific for older women.
A spokesman for Thein Sein, Ko Ko Hlaing, said there is an “understanding” between the president and Suu Kyi, and that he did not believe their relationship had been affected by her trip.