100 days of Myanmar′s new government - What has changed? | Asia| An in-depth look at news from across the continent | DW | 08.07.2016
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100 days of Myanmar's new government - What has changed?

It's been over three months since Aung San Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy (NLD) party took power in the country. Myanmar experts Robert Taylor and Hans-Bernd-Zöllner talk to DW about the new government.

Aung San Suu Kyi's NLD party triumphed in last November's parliamentary elections, winning a large majority of seats in the nation's legislature. The new government - under President Htin Kyaw - then took over the reins on March 30.

But Aung San Suu Kyi, who is barred from the presidency by the country's constitution, is viewed as the de facto leader of the new government, and she currently holds the positions of state counsellor, foreign minister and minister of president's office.

The new civilian administration inherited a country confronting an array of economic challenges. Despite its mineral wealth, Myanmar remains an impoverished nation, with a large segment of the Southeast Asian nation's over 53-million strong population mired in poverty.

The government also faces tensions with the military which ruled the country for almost half a century, and continues to control the nation's security policy by holding onto the key defense, home affairs and border affairs ministries.

Against this backdrop, Myanmar experts Robert Taylor and Hans-Bernd-Zöllner reflect on the new government's achievements so far and the challenges it faces in the coming months.

DW: Aung San Suu Kyi's NLD party has been in power for 100 days now. What has the government managed to achieve during its first months in office?

Robert Taylor: In the first 100 days, the government was formed and re-formed several times. A lot of administrative and political positions at various levels were filled. But in terms of policy, not much has happened.

Hans-Bernd Zöllner Uni Hamburg

Zöllner: 'The new government finds itself in a very challenging situation and 100 days are not very much for such a big task'

The government also set up a lot of committees to address various problems, but concrete results have yet to be achieved. There's still talk of releasing an economic policy blueprint, and of having a second Panglong conference to establish peace in the country. But these things are all works in progress.

[During the first Panglong conference in 1947, General Aung San and some leaders of ethnic minorities negotiated a basic agreement about jointly achieving independence from Britain.]

Is the new government slow to undertake the necessary reforms?

Hans-Bernd-Zöllner: The government is not slow compared to the big task ahead. In my view, they are trying and what people expect them to do is nothing short of reinventing Myanmar.

Because Aung San Suu Kyi is expected to achieve what her father wasn't able to do as he had been assassinated before the country became independent.

In 1988 when she appeared on the political stage for the first time, she said a very famous sentence: "This national crisis could in fact be called the second struggle for national independence." That is what people expect from her government: To make everything new.

But, of course, that isn't possible. The new government finds itself in a very challenging situation and 100 days are not very much for such a big task.

The government says it wants to reinvent the country and change society. What is your take on this?

Hans-Bernd-Zöllner: The first big undertaking for the government will be the 2nd Panglong conference. "Panglong 2" addresses the crucial issue of peace. That is what they are doing to reinvent the country.

Robert Taylor: One of the problems is, while they have been talking about this on and off for nearly five years, very little has been done in terms of preparing for it. And this is one of the problems the government has faced. They were elected in November and they seemed unprepared for it until they actually got into office.

This is why we are seeing a delay in getting things underway. One of the things that worries me about the 2nd Panglong conference is that this is a conference to try to bring peace amongst more than 20 ethnic armed groups, who all have their own agendas, their own interests, and their own positions. And getting them to agree in a two- or three-day meeting to sign a document is very difficult to do.

Is the peace process, according to you, the most important issue for Myanmar?

Robert Taylor: Well, the NLD ran on a program encompassing democracy, prosperity and peace. And peace was said to be the priority. And it probably is. The country has faced civil war and internal conflict since independence in 1948. Therefore solutions must be found to end this.

Hans-Bernd-Zöllner: And all other issues like reforming the economy, which some in the West might say is the priority, is so closely connected to peace as many of the country's resources are in areas controlled or partly controlled by fighting groups such as those in the Shan state and the Kachin state. So everything is connected to peace.

You say two days won't be enough to reach an agreement. Then how long do you think it will it take?

Robert Taylor: We can only be certain about what happened in the past. And last November, there was a ceasefire agreement signed with eight armed groups. At the time, they said they would start a political dialogue to raise issues about constitutional reforms and other things to make sure that the conflicts do not reignite.

But to reach that point, they had been holding talks for at least five years.

A lot of issues will have to be tackled during the talks, and it is usually very difficult to solve these problems where people are using different languages to talk about the same conflict.

Hans-Bernd-Zöllner: If they manage to get some kind of agreement it will be a symbolic act. That is the most important aspect of this conference and some symbolic act might be what many people will be content with.

Großbritannien Politologe Robert Taylor

Taylor: 'In terms of policy, not much has happened so far'

The policy of the NLD and especially of Aung San Suu Kyi in the old days was symbolic politics as there were plenty of restrictions put on her and the NLD by the military. A mere symbolic breakthrough is not just a bad thing in my view, given the great difficulties mentioned already.

When it comes to the NLD, are there any preparations within the party for the time after Aung San Suu Kyi, who is currently 71-years old?

Robert Taylor: Clearly there are people, like President Htin Kyaw, who would be seen as a potential successor to her. But there have so far been no indications from her or anyone else that there is something like a succession strategy. Perhaps she thinks it is too early for that.

Hans-Bernd-Zöllner: Many in Myanmar believe the party will fall apart if Aung San Suu Kyi isn't the leader anymore. That is a tremendous challenge and a big factor of uncertainty for the future of Myanmar.

Robert Taylor is one of the leading experts on Myanmar politics. He has published several books and dozens of articles about the country.

Hans-Bernd Zöllner wrote a comprehensive study about Aung San Suu Kyi and the military in Myanmar. His last publication in German was a political biography about Aung San Suu Kyi.

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