NAYPYITAW — People have the right to criticize a democratically elected government, Myanmar’s State Counselor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi said on Thursday amid criticism of her government’s lack of progress and failure to protect press freedom.
“The elected government must face criticism bravely and righteously. People have the right to criticize the government which they have elected,” Daw Aung San Suu Kyi said at an event to mark the first anniversary of her State Counselor’s Office in Naypyitaw on Thursday.
“Not all of the people will offer constructive criticism, this is not unusual in a democracy,” she said.
Civil servants should amend their work if criticisms are valid and, even if criticisms are not fair, they have to respect public opinion, she advised.
Daw Aung San Suu Kyi admitted that members of her cabinet would not be perfect and that they have their own strengths and weaknesses. She urged civil servants to develop all of their capabilities to serve national interests.
“Don’t only think about self-interest,” she advised. “If the public can take pride in our civil servants, we will be able to take pride in our country.”
The National League for Democracy-led government has come under fire as its political and economic reforms fall short of people’s expectations, one and half year after it took the office. Its handling of the peace process, the Rakhine issue and racial divides also attracted criticism.
The main objective of the State Counselor’s Office is to achieve peace, and the office also assumes the responsibility to provide guidance in efforts for national reconciliation, rule of law, improving the economy and living standards of people, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi said.
Minister of the State Counselor’s Office U Kyaw Tint Swe told the press: “We handle various issues such as government administration, international relations, national reconciliation, internal peace, the Rakhine issue, the Myitsone Dam, and the Kyaukphyu Special Economic Zone,”
“It is natural for civil servants and military personnel to be criticized in a democratic age,” said journalist U Thiha Thway.
“In an age of democracy, every politician will be criticized. But, the problem is they don’t respect criticism. There is no culture of tolerance for criticism here,” he added.
A number of journalists have been charged for publishing articles critical of the government including U Kyaw Min Swe, chief editor of The Voice Daily, who was charged under Article 66 (d) of Telecommunications Law for publishing a satirical article questioning the country’s ongoing peace process.