Suu Kyi's 'human pen': The Statesman

In its editorial, the paper says Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi has entrenched her authority with the appointment of the new President.

Myanmar's President Win Myint (left) and State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi (right) arrive at the parliament in Naypyidaw to take his oath of office, on March 30, 2018. PHOTO: AFP

NEW DELHI (THE STATESMAN/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - Paradoxically enough, Aung San Suu Kyi has reinforced her authority with the selection of a longtime loyalist, Win Myint, as Myanmar's new President.

Small wonder he has almost immediately been debunked as the "official conduit and human pen" for her authority.

She remains the power behind the presidential throne, which at best symbolises a facade behind a military-drafted Constitution.

It is obvious that she needed to buttress her authority in the face of the international condemnation for her muted response ~ is "acquiescence" the right expression? ~ to the military's relentless ethnic cleansing of Rohingya Muslims.

In real terms, therefore, Win Myint will have to reconcile himself to the ceremonial No. 2 position in the official hierarchy, with the State Counsellor, Suu Kyi, holding the pivotal slot.

The new President has had to go through the motions of an "election" in Parliament, a process that was in itself suspect.

He was chosen from among three candidates during a shambolic session in which his background and qualifications for the job were reportedly not mentioned. There was no reference either to his stand on such pressing matters as the Rohingya issue, an increasing crackdown on freedom of speech, a stuttering economy, and the persistent conflict between the military and several ethnic groups.

As with so much about Myanmar for over two decades, the political manoeuvering is shaped by the military-drafted Constitution.

Chiefly, it prohibits Suu Kyi from serving as President because her children are foreign citizens.

After her party, the National League for Democracy's landslide victory in 2015, she sought to get around the ban by adopting the label of State Counsellor, an office that is not included in the Constitution. Nay more, she even declared herself to be "above the President."

That self-arrogated authority has now been entrenched further still.

The Constitution also creates a divided government in which the army commander-in-chief appoints 25 per cent of Parliament's members and three powerful cabinet members.

Above all, it reports to no civilian authority. Having ensured that her ally steps into the presidential palace, the move is unlikely to upset a delicate balance of power in a country where the military retains a critical political role.

Ergo, policy changes are unlikely; there is little doubt that Suu Kyi has played to the gallery of the GHQ, while safeguarding her position in the constitutional and/or personal scheme of things.

This is the stark disconnect that persists in Myanmar close to three decades after her famous victory.

Going by the Constitution, the President is both the Head of State and Government and theoretically wields enormous powers.

Actually, however, he remains the titular head ~ a position that suits both Suu Kyi and the military. And the privation of the persecuted persists.

The Statesman is a member of The Straits Times media partner Asia News Network, an alliance of 23 news media entities.

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