Suu Kyi Slams Reforms, Says Govt Introduced ‘No Tangible Changes’

By Kyaw Phyo Tha, Reform 27 May 2013

RANGOON—Burma’s opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi on Monday criticized the government’s reform agenda, saying that little progress had been made in establishing rule of law and peace. She urged President Thein Sein to push ahead with more reforms, adding that “only a desire for change is not enough.”

Suu Kyi also questioned the recent introduction of a two-child policy for Rohingya families in northern Arakan State, saying that the measure is “illegal” and “not in accordance with human rights.”

She made her remarks during the first meeting of the National League for Democracy’s new Central Executive Committee in Rangoon on Monday.

“The last three years saw no tangible changes, especially in [the area of] the rule of law and the peace process,” she told her committee members. “The reform started in 2010, now we have to ask the question: ‘Have we got any tangible results so far’?”

“If we want success in reforms, everyone involved in the process must change. [Providing] only lip-service doesn’t work,” the NLD chairperson said during a 20-minute public speech.

She said reforming the military-drafted 2008 Constitution, ending ethnic conflict and establishing rule of law remains key to Burma’s development and democratic transition.

Reforming the Constitution so that it guarantees more rights for Burma’s ethnic minorities should be a priority, Suu Kyi said, adding, “My ethnic representatives said that as long as there is inequality among the races of Burma, there will not be peace.”

The NLD leader also called on the government to stem the growing drug trade. The issue has long plagued northeastern Burma but it has significantly worsened in recent years. “If you want international support, you can’t neglect the drug problem,” she warned.

Since Thein Sein began leading a nominally civilian government in 2011, he has won international praise for introducing a range of political and socio-economic reform measures, and for releasing hundreds of political prisoners. Suu Kyi was released from house arrest in late 2010.

His government brokered ceasefires with most ethnic militias, but negotiations to reach stable peace agreements have made little progress.

A former general, Thein Sein was appointed civilian president following the flawed 2010 elections. His appointment was part of a roadmap to full democratic elections in 2015, which has been planned by Burma’s powerful military.

Asked by The Irrawaddy if she still believes that Thein Sein is a genuine reformer, Suu Kyi said, “For a reformist, just only having a desire to change is not enough. He or she has to prove it. At the same time, they need to know if they have the ability to do so. Their actions also need to be effective.”

The NLD leader also criticized the recent introduction of a two-child policy for Rohingya Muslims in northern Arakan State. “That kind of discrimination is illegal. It’s not in accordance with human rights,” Suu Kyi told reporters after her speech. “Whether they’ve really issued that kind of order is beyond my knowledge,” she added.

Last week, Arakan State officials told The Irrawaddy that a ban on polygamy and a two-child policy had been introduced in Maungdaw District on May 12, in order to curb the supposed “rapid population growth” among Rohingya Muslims, who form the majority in the district. The restriction does not apply to the local Arakanese Buddhist minority.

Win Tin, a senior member and NLD founder, said that Suu Kyi was right to criticize the government’s reform agenda, adding that such remarks were in fact overdue.

“I agree with what Suu Kyi said; I have found no tangible results in Thein Sein’s reforms,” Win Tin said. “I think Suu Kyo is three years late in making criticisms like that.”

“In Burmese politics, nearly everyone … is following Thein Sein. [But] now, the NLD sees that following Thein Sein is no longer realistic. That’s why Suu Kyi is speaking out now,” he said.