Myanmar president seeks new ministry for Suu Kyi

Proposal to support her state counsellor role likely to face opposition from military MPs

YANGON • Myanmar's president has urged the creation of a new ministry for Ms Aung San Suu Kyi's state adviser position, a move that will deepen her influence and likely rile the powerful army.

Ms Suu Kyi is barred from the presidency by the military-drafted Constitution despite having led her pro-democracy party to a landslide victory in November.

She has instead hoovered up a slew of other senior positions, including foreign minister, president's officer minister, and the specially devised role of state counsellor, which gives her vaguely defined powers to guide parliamentary affairs. The array of powers across government has helped the veteran activist fulfil a pledge to rule "above" her presidential proxy and close ally Htin Kyaw.

Shortly after taking office, she announced, as state counsellor, a major political prisoner release last month. She has also met foreign dignitaries and yesterday accompanied Mr Htin Kyaw to Laos on his first international visit as president.

The proposal for a ministry to support her role "is intended to speed up the government's efforts at national reconciliation, internal peace, national development and the rule of law", the English-language state newspaper Global New Light of Myanmar reported yesterday.

Parliamentary debate on the proposal is set to take place next week.

That discussion will likely feature objections from military MPs who registered strong opposition when the state counsellor position was created specifically for Ms Suu Kyi.

Other MPs expressed bemusement at the plans. Mr Ba Sein from the Arakan National Party said: "A new ministry is not really needed for the national reconciliation and peace process. But I won't stand against the proposal."

Ms Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy can comfortably pass most of its Bills due to its hefty majority. Myanmar's first civilian government in generations faces formidable challenges in a nation racked with poverty, corruption and conflict after years of military rule.

Few concrete policy details have emerged in the administration's initial weeks in power, although it has vowed to streamline the bureaucracy by combining ministries and cutting the number of Cabinet posts.

The government also freed scores of political prisoners and those facing controversial trials for rallies against the previous leadership.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 07, 2016, with the headline 'Myanmar president seeks new ministry for Suu Kyi'. Print Edition | Subscribe