Among the most significant achievements of the National League for Democracy government since it took office has been a reconciliation with the Tatmadaw that will be crucial for the success of the transition.
By SITHU AUNG MYINT | FRONTIER
IT IS more than 100 days since the National League for Democracy-backed government took office. A few days after the change of power the nation took a 10-day holiday for Thingyan, the traditional New Year festival, so the first 100 days seems to have passed quickly.
Analysis and commentary from various points of view about the performance of the new government in its first 100 days have begun to appear. Much has been said about the government’s shortcomings and challenges, but I’m going to focus instead on the achievements of the NLD government during its first 100 days in power – achievements that have not always received due recognition.
Before the NLD took office after its decisive election victory, a major concern both in Myanmar and among the international community was whether it could develop a smooth relationship with the Tatmadaw. It would be difficult for the NLD government to implement its agenda without good relations with the Tatmadaw, which controls three ministries, including police force. The cooperation of the Tatmadaw is also essential for progress in the NLD’s effort to achieve peace with ethnic minorities and its endeavours for national economic development.
During the first 100 days, NLD leader and State Counsellor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi was able to establish an amiable relationship and mutual understanding with the Tatmadaw. An example was the decision by Commander-in-Chief Senior General Min Aung Hlaing to attend the 69th annual Martyrs’ Day ceremony in Yangon on July 19.
His presence at the ceremony was significant. It was the first time the event honouring General Aung San and the other fallen heroes had been attended by a commander-in-chief since General Ne Win 40 years earlier. Min Aung Hlaing later attended a Buddhist merit-making ceremony in honour of the fallen heroes held at Aung San Suu Kyi’s lakeside University Avenue residence. The presence of a Tatmadaw chief in the NLD leader’s home was unprecedented. A few days earlier in Nay Pyi Taw, Min Aung Hlaing and Aung San Suu Kyi were pictured smiling together as he showed her around the Defence Services Museum.
Taking these events into consideration, it is safe to say that Aung San Suu Kyi and the NLD government have achieved a degree of reconciliation with the Tatmadaw. Such a development is imperative in a transitional period. It can be regarded as a great achievement for the government.
Aung San Suu Kyi has said that her first priority would be to bring peace to Myanmar after 70 years of conflict between the Tatmadaw and armed groups representing national ethnic minorities. The NLD leader has been a driving force behind the planned 21st Century Panglong conference.
The Tatmadaw and ethnic armed groups have agreed in principle to the holding of this peace meeting. However, it’s not certain yet whether the conference will be inclusive because of continuing disagreement between the Tatmadaw and the groups, headed by the Kachin Independence Organisation, that did not sign the so-called Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement last October.
When the NLD government came to power, the international community was wondering how Aung San Suu Kyi would respond to the situation in Rakhine State. A committee headed by Aung San Suu Kyi has since been tasked with bringing peace and development to Rakhine, one of Myanmar’s poorest regions.
She has also urged the avoidance in Myanmar and by the international community of “emotive terms” such as “Rohingya” or “Bengali”, and many have followed her advice. Aung San Suu Kyi instead proposed that those who identify as Rohingya be referred to as members of “the Muslim community in Rakhine State”, a term rejected by some ethnic Rakhine and other Buddhist nationalists. However, Rohingya activists abroad have largely accepted her suggestion, and this can be regarded as a success by the new government.
The support of the international community is of critical importance for the success of the new government. Although it is no surprise that the United States and the European Union, long-time allies of the NLD, have given their full backing to the government, the continued support of neighbouring countries such as China can be regarded as a success.
In conclusion, the achievements of the NLD government in its first 100 days are quite satisfactory.