Analysis: Why Daw Aung San Suu Kyi Shunned UN General Assembly 

By The Irrawaddy 16 October 2017

When Aung San Suu Kyi decided to send her vice president U Henry Van Thio to deliver a speech at the UN in New York she was denounced for avoiding questions and criticism on the plight of self-identifying Rohingya and violence in Rakhine State.

Some insiders, however, say that the State Counselor had more pressing issues at home.

Since the crisis erupted, President U Htin Kyaw has been undergoing treatment in Bangkok. The generals wanted to declare a state of emergency in Rakhine State as clearance operations were launched.

If Daw Aung San Suu Kyi decided to go to New York while U Htin Kyaw was in a Bangkok hospital receiving treatment, U Myint Swe would be in charge and the army could declare a state of emergency in Rakhine State.

Since day one, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi has objected to declaring a state of emergency in Rakhine State.

Vice president U Myint Swe is a former top general and served as Yangon chief minister under the U Thein Sein administration and was known as a military hardliner under the Snr-Gen Than Shwe regime.

After reading the precarious situation, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi decided not to go to New York and instead delivered a diplomatic briefing addressing Rakhine State in English. Simultaneously, rallies to support Daw Aung San Suu Kyi were held in some major cities to condemn mounting international pressure on the State Counselor.

U Htin Kyaw came back from medical treatment but Daw Aung San Suu Kyi cancelled her planned trip to Prague.

Instead, she went to Brunei to attend the Golden Jubilee gala of King Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah’s succession to the throne. She was seen with several Asean leaders who have expressed concern on the situation in Rakhine State.

Malaysia decided to disassociate itself from a statement on Rakhine issued by the Filipino chairman of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations. It said that the statement misrepresents the reality of the situation and omits references to Rohingya Muslims.

In any case, under the 2008 Constitution, the army can declare a state of emergency. But there is process.

Only the President can declare a state of emergency after consulting and coordinating with the Commander-in-Chief of Defense Services and Home Affairs. This declaration must be submitted to the National Defense and Security Council (NDSC) for approval as soon as possible, according to the Constitution.

It should be noted that under the current administration, regular NDSC meetings do not take place.

The commander-in-chief would have sovereign power, but he would have to seek NDSC approval to extend the emergency period to six months or more.

He also has to report to an emergency session of the Union Parliament. This scenario is likely if the country is perceived as facing a serious emergency situation or a formidable threat to sovereignty.

Among diplomats and observers, there are still rumors of a coup.

China, India and other of Myanmar’s close neighbors watch the ongoing power play in Naypyitaw knowing that relations between State Counselor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and Snr Gen Min Aung Hlaing are at a low point.