NAYPYIDAW — State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi is not overburdened with steering the cabinet and performing her various high-level executive functions, National League for Democracy (NLD) spokesperson Win Htein told The Irrawaddy.
Win Htein was speaking in response to concerns flagged in a report by the Brussels-based International Crisis Group released at the end of last month: that Suu Kyi is shouldering an overwhelming array of responsibilities and must learn to delegate more authority, and consult more widely, in pursuing her reform agenda.
“I don’t think she feels pressured by her workload because she is merely applying now what she has learned throughout her life. She always seems to be at ease whenever I see her. Sometimes, she even cracks jokes,” said Win Htein.
As state counselor, foreign minister, NLD chairperson, and chair of the high-level committees overseeing the peace process with ethnic armed groups and the frozen religious conflict in Arakan State, leadership on Burma’s most pressing crises and reform initiatives falls on Suu Kyi.
Win Htein said Suu Kyi is not only capable of meeting all her responsibilities but she is always found to be happy while doing so; the 71-year-old is “full of vigor despite her age.”
“It seems that she made a resolution to stay healthy. She is even healthier than me,” said Win Htein, who is known to meet Suu Kyi at least two or three times a week.
Regarding the appearance of Suu Kyi’s name on an (unverified) “hit list” sent to police in Malaysia on August 1, which purported to be from the Islamic State (IS) terrorist group, Win Htein reiterated earlier government claims that Suu Kyi’s personal security would be increased.
“IS has made a threat, but the government’s security apparatus has taken responsibility for her [safety]. This makes us feel relieved. But we [the NLD governing executive] still have responsibility for her security,” he said.
All the security agencies in Burma—including the police—and the government departments related to defense and security are under the control of the military, in accordance with the military-drafted 2008 Constitution, without civilian oversight.
At a socio-economic development forum held in Naypyidaw on Saturday, Win Htein admitted that the NLD government had been unable to make significant progress in improving Burma’s economy in the first four months of its administration.
However, he cited key differences between the conduct of the current government and its military-backed predecessor: both the central and the state and division governments are “not corrupt,” and the government “does not oppress the people at all.”
Those appointed by the NLD government “try not to make mistakes,” Win Htein said. “We monitor them. We are not hesitant to correct or replace them if they make mistakes, even if their intentions are good. This is the policy adopted by Daw Aung San Suu Kyi,” he told reporters.
He added that some office-holders have “deviated” from the NLD’s goals: “some become arrogant and some seek popularity. Whenever we see such things, we note them down and try to correct them.”