Daw Aung San Suu Kyi took an important step toward forming Myanmar’s next government yesterday, meeting President U Thein Sein and the Tatmadaw’s top general to discuss the transfer of power over the next three months.
Few details were released of her two separate meetings in Nay Pyi Taw, but all participants agreed to ensure a smooth transition that reflected the result of the November 8 election, which her National League for Democracy won in a landslide.
Daw Aung San Suu Kyi’s reception by Senior General Min Aung Hlaing, the current head of the military that had kept her under house arrest for some 15 years, carried great symbolic importance.
While U Thein Sein could be looking forward to retirement after his Union Solidarity and Development Party was crushed in the November 8 elections, Sen Gen Min Aung Hlaing will in effect be sharing power with the NLD leader through the military’s control of three key ministries and its ability to bloc constitutional change in parliament.
“It was a good meeting. We agreed to cooperate,” the uniformed commander-in-chief told reporters after the two posed for photographers following a meeting that lasted about one hour.
About 30 minutes later, Senior General Min Aung Hlaing’s office published a very short statement. “We agreed to cooperate for stability, the rules of law, unity and the development of the state,” it said.
Minister for Information U Ye Htut, who joined the president in the morning meeting with Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, said there was no mention of constitutional issues during their talks lasting about 45 minutes.
“They mainly focused on the smooth and peaceful transfer of the state responsibilities to the future government,” he said. He described this as “unprecedented”, presumably referring to the period since 1962 when the military took absolute power before handing over to U Thein Sein’s quasi-civilian government in 2011.
“In the history of our country, since it obtained its independence in 1948, there has been no political culture where power is transferred peacefully to an elected government. We’re committed to doing that successfully. This will be a successful end to the transition started by us,” U Ye Htut said.
“During the talks, Daw Suu said that we need a culture of peacefully transferring power. President U Thein Sein promised to do so. She got the president’s personal commitment,” he said, adding that the government had begun preparations to transfer power one year ago.
The 70-year-old leader of the National League for Democracy has made clear she intends to set government policy and sees herself as “above the president”, even if she is barred by the 2008 constitution from taking that post because her children are foreign nationals.
Daw Aung San Suu Kyi said nothing to reporters about her talks. She has not disclosed whom she intends to nominate as president. In her meeting with U Thein Sein she was joined by U Win Myint, a senior party official and current MP for Pathein.
The president and the commander in chief had both responded positively on November 11 to Daw Aung San Suu Kyi’s request for talks “in the spirit of national reconciliation” but it was not until November 30 that they set a date for the meeting. Both have said they would work towards a smooth transfer of authority to the new government.
The new parliament is not due to convene until late next month. In February it will start the process of electing the next president who will appoint a government to take office in March.
Political commentator U Yan Myo Thein said he welcomed the meeting as an important step toward a more democratic country. However, he said the comments from U Ye Htut and the military were very general and suggested that those involved in the talks should be more transparent about the outcome of the meeting.
“I’m not satisfied on these very general comments - I have not seen any specific agreement. I’m wondering whether they have reached an agreement on a specific issue. If they reached an agreement, they should not keep it secret. Let people know about it, at least to some extent,” he said.
U Aye Maung, chair of the Arakan National Party, said he believed that Daw Aung San Suu Kyi had made a compromise with the president and senior general on the military’s future involvement in Myanmar’s political landscape.
He suggested that she may have promised to include some former generals in her cabinet.
“Some former generals, for example U Hla Htay Win, who won a seat in Nay Pyi Taw, must be included in the government. That’s why Daw Aung San Suu Kyi explained her plan for these generals … I think they reached an agreement on that matter,” said U Aye Maung.
“Daw Aung San Suu Kyi knows how to deal with them because she met five times with [Pyidaungsu Hluttaw] Speaker Thura U Shwe Mann before these meetings. She may have got some suggestions from him.”