Latest Stories

Suu Kyi an icon lacking political experience – analysts


Aung San Suu Kyi, Myanmar Member of Parliament, speaks in Low Memorial Library on September 22, 2012 at Columbia University in New York. AFP /Stan Honda

YANGON – Aung San Suu Kyi may be one of the world’s most renowned political activists, but when it comes to reviving her impoverished homeland, observers say the opposition leader will need help.

The Nobel laureate spent 15 of the last 23 years under house arrest, a sacrifice that has earned her deep respect both at home and abroad, as shown by the reception given to her in the United States this week.

But the long years of isolation have also left the Oxford-educated democracy champion sorely lacking in the political experience necessary to tackle Myanmar’s myriad challenges as the country braces for further unprecedented change in the run up to 2015 elections and beyond, analysts say.

Many of the senior figures in her political party also spent years languishing in prison.

Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy has a distinguished leader and massive popular support “but between the two, it has nothing”, said one foreign diplomat.

“It is not a party of elites and it is not a mass party, because it has no policies,” he said. “There is every chance that it will win in 2015. But it will not be the great revolution day.”

There is little doubt that Myanmar’s opposition leader is already in the process of a stunning metamorphosis.

She was the junta’s nemesis, but Suu Kyi’s journey into parliament has seen her agree to work with the reforming ex-generals who took the helm of a new regime in March last year.

However, in the lower house of parliament Suu Kyi and her 41 NLD colleagues had little to say on recent economic debates, including on a foreign investment law seen as crucial in helping drag the long-isolated nation out of poverty.

They “are not experienced in business” said Myat Thin Aung, vice chairman of Yoma bank.

While many of their rivals in the army-backed ruling party ran thriving businesses under the last government and are now “more experienced” on economic issues, “in the opposition many of them were in jail”, he said.

“They have no vision in economy… They do listen but they don’t understand the whole process,” said Myat Thin Aung, who is also a member of the country’s Union of Myanmar Federation of Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

Even within the ranks of the opposition – where references to Suu Kyi are steeped with reverence and gratitude — there is concern about how the party can meet the enormous hopes and expectations of Myanmar’s long-suffering people.

The higher echelons of the NLD are dominated by many of the same figures that have run the party for two decades.

Some are in their eighties and while lauded for their long struggle for democracy, some observers also believe they are hampering the rise of a new generation who may be better able to steer the country towards prosperity.

NLD MPs insist they have enough expertise within their ranks to manage the economy and negotiate the political hurdles ahead, while Suu Kyi has also expressed confidence in the abilities of the ageing pro-democracy old guard.

But younger party members will undoubtedly be needed to take the helm when the Nobel laureate, who is herself 67 years old, steps back from the political fray.

“The NLD should reform itself to give the youth some participation in the political process,” said Zaw Thet Htwe, a journalist and former political prisoner, who was released in January in one of several amnesties by President Thein Sein.

This is all the more imperative, he said, because of a constitutional rule that bars “The Lady” from taking the top government role because she was married to a British man and has two sons who are both foreign nationals.

“Suu Kyi cannot be president because of the constitution. We must drop this idea. It is not possible,” he told AFP.

Observers believe it is now crucial for the democracy champion to recognize this shortfall in expertise – and to make up for it.

The next major political milestone will be the 2015 election, but beyond that new political heavyweights will need to emerge to take the mantle from the veterans of Myanmar’s democracy movement.

“We need to look beyond – 2020, 2030,” said Aung Tun Htet, a respected Yangon intellectual.

“As years pass, some of the main characters will gradually fade away. The question then is how do we ensure that the generation that are coming up can work together.”

Follow Us

Follow us on Facebook Follow on Twitter Follow on Twitter

Recent Stories:

Complete stories on our Digital Edition newsstand for tablets, netbooks and mobile phones; 14-issue free trial. About to step out? Get breaking alerts on your mobile.phone. Text ON INQ BREAKING to 4467, for Globe, Smart and Sun subscribers in the Philippines.

Tags: Aung San Kyi , Myanmar , Politics

  • scorpio22

    What you lack in political experience can be made up with your heart and will. 

Copyright © 2014, .
To subscribe to the Philippine Daily Inquirer newspaper in the Philippines, call +63 2 896-6000 for Metro Manila and Metro Cebu or email your subscription request here.
Factual errors? Contact the Philippine Daily Inquirer's day desk. Believe this article violates journalistic ethics? Contact the Inquirer's Reader's Advocate. Or write The Readers' Advocate:
c/o Philippine Daily Inquirer Chino Roces Avenue corner Yague and Mascardo Streets, Makati City, Metro Manila, Philippines Or fax nos. +63 2 8974793 to 94
  1. US teacher fired over comment on black president
  2. Filipinos, Dane re-enact crucifixion of Christ
  3. Magnitude-7.5 earthquake shakes Mexican capital
  4. Henares on Pacquiao bashing: I did not start this
  5. ‘No real progress in PH if dynasties not dismantled’
  6. More legal woes for Cedric Lee
  7. Massive infra spending set
  8. Easter crucifixions draw huge crowds
  9. ‘Mom, I love you,’ says text from student on sinking ferry
  10. Kim Henares needs a reprimand, says Cayetano
  1. Kim Henares needs a reprimand, says Cayetano
  2. Suspect in Vhong Navarro mauling tries to leave PH
  3. More legal woes for Cedric Lee
  4. Fr. Suarez says last Mass on Easter before returning donated land to San Miguel
  5. ‘Mom, I love you,’ says text from student on sinking ferry
  6. MH370 co-pilot made mid-flight phone call – report
  7. ‘No real progress in PH if dynasties not dismantled’
  8. I’ll follow my conscience on Estrada, says JV Ejercito
  9. Massive infra spending set
  10. OFW brings MERS virus to Philippines
  1. KL confirms Malaysian Airlines Flight MH370 ended in Indian Ocean
  2. MRT passengers pass the hat for 6-year-old Ashley
  3. Rookie, lady cops lauded for quick response to MOA heist
  4. Model Helena Belmonte wished ‘to slash her wrist and hope to die’
  5. Malaysia averts another air tragedy; pilot lands troubled plane safely
  6. Revilla says he was joking; Lacson stands by his story
  7. Revilla ‘consulted’ Lacson on how he evaded arrest
  8. Police rule out foul play in Helena Belmonte’s death as boyfriend is ‘traumatized’
  9. Cudia, dismissed for lying, got 99% in conduct
  10. Hammer-wielding robbers cause chaos at Philippines’ Mall of Asia


  • Korea ferry captain defends actions, bodies seen in ship
  • Traffic starts to build up at toll plazas on Black Saturday
  • Flash floods hit 9 Tagum villages
  • No tsunami to hit PH after 6.9 quake jolts Solomon Islands–Phivolcs
  • Search resumes for bodies in Everest avalanche
  • Sports

  • Hamilton takes pole at Chinese Grand Prix
  • Duke’s Rodney Hood joining Jabari Parker in NBA draft
  • Phelps entered in 3 events at comeback meet
  • Boston prepares for huge wave of marathon visitors
  • Motivated LeBron James preps for postseason
  • Lifestyle

  • Levine designs womenswear with help from fiancee
  • Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Nobel laureate, dies at 87
  • Ford Mustang turns 50 atop Empire State Building
  • Pro visual artists, lensmen to judge Pagcor’s photo contest
  • ‘Labahita a la bacalao’
  • Entertainment

  • Myx TV premieres Asian American ‘docu-series’
  • A nutty finale for ‘Scandal,’ TV’s craziest show
  • EXO postpones release of mini album ‘Overdose’
  • ‘X-men’ filmmaker slams ‘fabricated’ sex attack claims
  • Singer Chris Brown’s bodyguard on trial in DC
  • Business

  • Fiat-Chrysler to produce iconic Jeep in China from 2015
  • US commerce secretary spells out economic facet of ‘pivot to Asia’
  • Italy sells luxury state cars on eBay
  • Asian shares mostly up in quiet trade
  • Dollar up in Asia on US jobs data, Ukraine deal
  • Technology

  • Nasa’s moon-orbiting robot crashes down
  • Netizens pay respects to Gabriel Garcia Marquez
  • Nokia recalls 30,000 chargers for Lumia 2520 tablet
  • Facebook rolls out ‘nearby friends’ feature
  • Netizens seethe over Aquino’s ‘sacrifice’ message
  • Opinion

  • Editorial cartoon, April 17, 2014
  • A humbler Church
  • Deepest darkness
  • ‘Agnihotra’ for Earth’s health
  • It’s the Holy Week, time to think of others
  • Global Nation

  • We treasure our Sierra Madre
  • OFW from UAE tests negative for MERS-Cov–health chief
  • Multicultural flock marks Good Friday in San Francisco
  • Las Vegas ‘Pinoy Pride’ fest hails Filipino heritage
  • Marking Jesus’ journey on Good Friday
  • Marketplace