On This Day

The Day Election Winners and Losers Discussed Myanmar’s First Peaceful Transfer of Power

By The Irrawaddy 2 December 2021

On this day in 2015, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi met separately with then President U Thein Sein and military chief Senior General Min Aung Hlaing in Naypyitaw to discuss the transfer of power following her National League for Democracy (NLD)’s victory in the general election held the previous month.

The fact that it took more than two weeks after the NLD’s electoral victory for U Thein Sein—whose party served as the military’s proxy—and Daw Aung San Suu Kyi to meet caused many Myanmar people to worry that the military would not accept the election results and refuse to transfer power. They had reason to be concerned; in 1990 the military refused to hand over power when the NLD won a majority in the general election of that year.

U Thein Sein welcomed Daw Aung San Suu Kyi as she arrived at the presidential residence at around 9 a.m. on Dec. 2, 2015. He extended congratulations to her on her party’s electoral victory and Daw Aung San Suu Kyi thanked him for implementing democratic reforms, including regulatory changes that enabled the NLD to reengage in parliamentary politics in 2012, and for holding a free and fair election.

Then President U Thein Sein, left, shakes hands with National League for Democracy chairwoman Daw Aung San Suu Kyi at their meeting in Naypyitaw on Dec. 2, 2015. / Facebook / Myanmar President’s Office

U Win Myint, who would become Myanmar’s President in 2018, accompanied the Nobel Laureate to the meeting. The two sides discussed the importance of establishing a tradition of systematically transferring power—which was unprecedented in Myanmar. They also explored measures to ensure a smooth and peaceful transfer of power and promised to cooperate to allay public concerns.

Around 2 p.m. the same day, the NLD chairwoman met military chief Snr-Gen Min Aung Hlaing in the administrative capital. Also present at the meeting were the senior general’s deputy, Vice Senior General Soe Win, and General Mya Tun Oo (who is now the defense minister in the military regime that currently rules Myanmar). The two sides agreed to cooperate on peace, stability and rule of law, national reconciliation and development in the interests of the Myanmar people, the state-run newspapers reported.

Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and Snr-Gen Min Aung Hlaing in Naypyitaw on Dec. 2, 2016. / The Irrawaddy

U Win Htein, a senior NLD leader who attended the meeting, wrote in his autobiography that Daw Aung San Suu Kyi said she requested a meeting with the military leadership because of the important role of the military in the power transfer, and that she stated her intention to implement her party’s election manifesto and give priority to peace and national development. Snr-Gen Min Aung Hlaing told her the Tatmadaw (Myanmar’s military) would uphold the Constitution in performing its duties and cooperate with the newly elected government on national development.

Two days after her meetings with outgoing President U Thein Sein and Snr-Gen Min Aung Hlaing, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi paid a call on former military dictator Senior General Than Shwe. In 2016, 26 years after its first election victory in 1990, the NLD formed a government for the first time. It was also the first civilian government in some five decades, since Myanmar’s first coup in 1962, when military leader General Ne Win seized power from an elected government.

Daw Aung San Suu Kyi was constitutionally barred from becoming the country’s president, but ruled the country by proxy as the State Counselor. When the NLD repeated its electoral victory in 2020, however, Myanmar’s military was no longer willing to cooperate. Instead, the Tatmadaw staged a coup hours before the newly elected parliament was set to convene on Feb. 1, 2021.

The U Thein Sein government’s Foreign Minister U Wunna Maung Lwin, Immigration Minister U Khin Yi and Finance Minister U Win Shein were handpicked to return to the current regime’s cabinet. U Thein Sein’s political adviser U Ko Ko Hlaing was also appointed as international cooperation minister in the regime.

Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, President U Win Myint and many senior officials of the ousted NLD government have been detained since the Feb. 1 coup and face long terms of imprisonment for an array of charges.

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