Contact: Roland Watson, roland@dictatorwatch.org


January 14, 2017

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There is an idea, widespread in some quarters, that criticizing Aung San Suu Kyi helps the military dictatorship - that it plays into the generals' hands. This idea is false. The reason it is false is because it is based on an incorrect assumption, that Suu Kyi is part of the Burma pro-democracy movement.

(The underlying value is that in support of unity, we shouldn't criticize other members of the movement, even if we disagree with their tactics.)

Suu Kyi is not - more accurately, she is no longer - part of the democracy movement. Amazingly, while she may head a government in which a majority of the MPs were democratically elected, she herself acts as a dictator. She personally sets all policy. Everyone in her party, the NLD, including in Parliament, must follow her lead. Notably, she has blocked any consideration of Burma's most important issues, including the genocide against the Rohingya, the Civil War in the North, and ethnic questions more generally. Indeed, the last reflects her long-standing lack of cooperation with the ethnic resistance groups. She avoids contact with ethnic nationality representatives (and activists more broadly), so much so that it is as if she considers them the enemy. She has also appointed many members of the military regime to critical government positions. And, she has purged the NLD, both in the past and since the 2015 general election, of officials who dare to challenge her authority.

More fundamentally, Suu Kyi is not part of the democracy movement because she rejects its basic premise. A "movement" means opposition, in support of a cause. Movement members act to change what they view as wrong, and their actions involve both risk and sacrifice. In Burma, the movement opposes the dictatorship, starting with its security organs the Tatmadaw and the police, because it has perpetrated so many crimes and caused so much suffering.

Suu Kyi had a choice when she assumed formal power (beginning with her election as an MP in the 2012 by-election). She could stand against the regime, or join it. She chose the latter. Suu Kyi's government does not oppose the dictatorship, even through the mildest of criticisms. Instead, she is actively working to cover up its crimes (most obviously through her office's Information Committee).

The situation in Burma now is astonishing. Glowing reports about new economic deals notwithstanding, it is falling apart. There are so many things going wrong: The land thefts; the blockade on freedom of speech, starting with for the media; the new political prisoners, including those prosecuted under the notorious 66(d) provision in the telecommunications law, it just goes on and on. The Rohingya repression and the Civil War, though, have an entirely different character. They are crises.

65,000 Rohingya have fled to Bangladesh since October. The stories of the genocide - the village destruction, slaughter and rapes - are undeniable. The Burma Army is even kidnapping Rohingya girls to keep as sex slaves. What Suu Kyi's beloved Tatmadaw is doing is despicable beyond belief.

For the Civil War, the Army has engaged in unprecedented escalation. It has never before attacked from the air as it is doing now, on a daily basis, with helicopters and jets. The war in Northern Burma is at such a level that it is the most active conflict in the world after Syria and Iraq. The day-to-day aggression against the Northern Alliance, and the Rohingya, exceeds even the actions of the Taleban in Afghanistan.

Because of Suu Kyi's censorship, there is virtually no media coverage. Even more, the silence from U.S. and European diplomats is solely due to her. They look to her for guidance. If she acts like something isn't a problem, then they can safely ignore it, too.

Suu Kyi had her puppet, President Htin Kyaw, spout pro-dictatorship propaganda at this month's "Independence Day" observance. He said that the country has been a Burman empire for ages, which directly contradicts the fact that the Union of Burma only came into being through 1947's Panglong Agreement. Then, to add insult to injury, he gave awards for bravery to Tatmadaw war criminals.

The ethnic nationalities need to think about all of this carefully. Suu Kyi and the generals have set a basic position that the ethnic peoples will always be second class citizens - subjects - of Burman rulers. According to Suu Kyi, the country is to have institutionalized racism, in perpetuity, not only against the Rohingya but against anyone who is not Burman.

This means that the matters at hand extend well beyond the issue of the non-NCA signatories making their excuses not to attend the upcoming UPC. All the ethnic nationalities, including all the resistance armies, both signatory and non-signatory, and all the civil society groups, need to plan for a future with open, nation-wide conflict, and a situation where - as with Yugoslavia - only the breakup of the Union will bring peace.

Suu Kyi's actions are destroying the viability of the Union of Burma. It is now possible that it will reach the point where the ethnic peoples will no longer be able to coexist with the Burmans.


What is happening in the country is Aung San Suu Kyi's fault. She is part of the overall dictatorship. She never, ever should have surrendered, by ending the election boycott. She never should have agreed to the end of the sanctions. By doing all of this, she stabbed the Burma pro-democracy movement in the back.

Why has she acted this way? Why is her leadership so bad?

One explanation is that she is getting old. She was afraid that she would lose her chance at power. (Other possibilities include Stockholm Syndrome, or even that she is in the early stages of dementia.)

I think the deeper or core problem, though, is that she conflates herself with the nation. What is good for her is good for Burma, not what is good for Burma is good for her. She confuses the two, sees the world solely through her own self interest, which apparently is just to be a show leader in a country that is clearly still an absolute dictatorship. She goes to her meetings and thinks she is a big shot, and that Burma is normal. Since the genocide against the Rohingya and the Civil War mean that it is not normal, she has to ignore them, even deny them. Actually, she goes further. She swallows the dictatorship's lies. Maybe she really believes that the Rohingya are burning down their own homes and that all of the rape claims are false. Maybe she believes that the Sit-tut is "valiant," and that the Northern Alliance and UNFC are "insurgents." Maybe she believes "Burmans Uber Alles." Who knows. Who the hell cares!!! She is wrong. She has made the worst mistake imaginable, and she is too stubborn to admit it. She has made a deal with the devil, and now she is surprised that her own clothes are stained with blood. There is a simple fact. Burma will not be able to advance until Suu Kyi is gone. I'm not saying that it will advance when she is gone - the risks are profound - the dictatorship will of course continue to be brutal, the country may even split up. I'm just saying it cannot really and irreversibly get better until she is gone. She has personally blocked progress in an entire country for what is now going on 30 years.