Support for Daw Aung San Suu Kyi Still Strong on Social Media

By Nan Lwin 19 June 2018

YANGON — An analysis of Myanmar’s social media users by The Irrawaddy shows that “trust” in the country’s de facto leader, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, remains unanimous, though “negative” posts are still relatively high in heavily ethnic minority areas.

The Irrawaddy used the social media analytics program R to analyze online comments about the state counselor on the occasion of her birthday. The democracy icon, who swept to power in the 2015 elections on a wave of popular support after years of house arrest under military dictatorship, turned 73 today.

Her international reputation may have taken a hit since August, with some slamming her for failing to speak out against a military crackdown in western Rakhine State that has driven 700,000 mostly Muslim Rohingya to Bangladesh, many with reports of arson, rape and murder by security forces. At home, however, social media sentiment for Daw Aung San Suu Kyi remains wildly positive. Even global sentiment remains more positive than negative.

According to social media analytics site Hootsuite, Myanmar has some 16 million active social media users as of this year.

R, meanwhile, allows a maximum 3,200 Twitter and Facebook posts to be analyzed for any search term.

An analysis of 3,200 posts in Myanmar on Tuesday using #Aungsansuukyi and “Aung San Suu Kyi,” respectively, showed a 100 percent “trust” rate, as defined by the program. Forty-three percent expressed “sadness” over her frail health and advanced age. Fourteen percent expressed “surprise,” “disgust” or “anger,” but the numbers were too low for the programs to analyze those sentiments in detail.

The Irrawaddy also analyzed posts by region, looking at the capital of each state or region. Positive posts were highest in those cities with the largest proportions of ethnic Bamar. Magwe led the way with 87 percent, followed by Mandalay with 72 percent and Yangon with 68 percent. Positive posts in Mawlamyine, Myitkyina and Hakha were all under 20 percent.

Conversely, negative posts were highest in regions with the most ethnic minorities. Myitkyina had the highest proportion of negative posts with 45 percent, followed by Sittwe with 38 percent and Hakha with 27 percent. Bago and Pathein, which have among the highest proportion of Bamar, had the lowest proportions of negative posts, at 2 percent each.

Internationally, support for Daw Aung San Suu Kyi was also far more muted.

A separate analysis of 3,200 posts about her globally on Tuesday, using the program VADER, showed that 68 percent were generally positive and 27 percent were generally negative.