Is Suu Kyi Heading for a Cabinet Position?
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Is Suu Kyi Heading for a Cabinet Position?

By THE IRRAWADDY Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Aung San Suu Kyi on the campaign trail in Hlegu Township, Rangoon Division, on Feb. 15. (Photo: The Irrawaddy)

As Burma's political parties enter the final month of campaigning ahead of April 1 by-elections, speculation is growing among observers inside the country that National League for Democracy (NLD) leader Aung San Suu Kyi could be given a cabinet seat.

Although only 48 seats are up for grabs—40 in the Lower House, six in the Upper House and two in regional assemblies—out of a total of more than 1,000, Suu Kyi's immense popularity and longstanding status as the leader of the democratic opposition should, by many people's reckoning, earn her a ministerial post. 

Since officially kicking off her party's campaign about a month ago, Suu Kyi has drawn enthusiastic crowds of thousands eager to see the woman known to most Burmese simply as “the Lady”—or, even more affectionately, “Aunty Suu.”

In addition to visiting Kawhmu, the impoverished Irrawaddy Delta constituency she hopes to represent in Parliament, Suu Kyi has stumped for NLD candidates in the southern port town of Tavoy—set to be transformed into a massive industrial site by Thai investors—and Myitkyina, in the far north and close to an ongoing conflict between Burmese government forces and ethnic Kachin insurgents.

In both locations, and in others she has visited, she has made it clear that this is no ordinary election, raising themes that range from the country's economic prospects to the need for reconciliation among ethnic groups, democratic forces and the military.

Her central message on the need to restore democratic norms to a country long ruled by the military—one that she has voiced consistently since rising to prominence more than two decades ago—has been well received by the public, and so far hasn't drawn the ire of authorities.

It is widely believed that at least some in the nominally civilian government that came to power last year are in favor of co-opting Suu Kyi's domestic popularity and global name recognition, but it is far from sure that this will translate into giving her a high-profile position close to the president, retired general Thein Sein.

In journalistic circles in Rangoon, Burma's largest and most commercially important city, many are betting that Suu Kyi will be asked to head the health or education ministries. Both would be a good fit—she has often emphasized the need to dramatically increase the government's commitment to the basic needs of citizens—but neither would be particularly high-powered.

Some have even suggested that Suu Kyi could be given an official role in helping to end ethnic conflict. But this is seen as less likely, given the military's well-known distrust of any effort to bring ethnic and democratic forces closer together.
Still others say that the government could create a completely new position for Suu Kyi, such as minister in charge of coordinating international aid, to take advantage of her standing in the international community as an icon of democratic values. But this, too, is a long shot.

It is also entirely possible that the ruling Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) will do everything in its power to marginalize Suu Kyi in Parliament, if it is unable to prevent her reaching there in the first place.

The NLD and the USDP have a long and acrimonious history together. As the latest incarnation of the Union Solidarity and Development Association (USDA), created by former dictator Snr-Gen Than Shwe to mobilize mass support for military rule, the USDP is closely linked to a long campaign to eliminate the NLD. 

The USDA's systematic harassment of the party that won Burma's 1990 election—dealing a humiliating blow to the then ruling junta's efforts to legitimize its hold on power—culminated in its suspected involvement in the 2003 Depayin massacre, which saw many of Suu Kyi's supporters murdered by pro-regime thugs.

Even if a repeat of this infamous incident seems unlikely now, many dissidents fear that once Suu Kyi is in Naypyidaw, she will have little time or energy to act as the driving force within her party or as the leading figure of the pro-democracy movement.

Worse still, they fear that Suu Kyi will suffer the fate that ultimately befalls all politicians—failing to live up to the expectations of the electorate.

Considering that her campaign promises include doing her utmost to amend Burma's military-drafted Constitution and creating a genuine federal union in Burma with rights for all ethnic people, she will certainly have her work cut out for her, whatever job she ultimately gets when she goes to Naypyidaw.

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Oo Maung Gyi Wrote:
Aung San Suu Kyi is not heading for a post in Thein Sein's cabinet, but wants to amend the present constitution which is still undemocratic. At the same time she wants rule of law in the country and total peace with ethnic areas these are her priority. Government also not necessary to offer her a cabinet post at the sfor the country the same time she not requires to accept a cabinet post. She can work the best of her ability to make progress and get stablity of the country and make betterment for all country and peoples. Just wait and see.

Aung Yin Wrote:
She and other leaders shall be unique regardless of position.
It needs balance of power and respect with outsiders .

Hardy Wrote:

I don't think Daw Su and her advisers would fall for such a ploy -- unless they don't mind committing a political suicide.

Surely, no one can be blind enough to the simple fact that accepting a cabinet, or even a state agency, job means working for the proxy govt of U Thein Sein. A cabinet minister is, after all, obliged to support and carry out the policy of the ruling party to the fullest.

Think of Hillary Clinton who represents the Obama administration and is duty-bound to carry out President Obama's directives no matter what her personal feelings may be.

The speculative offer may appear to be a conciliatory gesture, but it must be seen as a cold, calculated strategy to use her as a PR officer to end Western sanctions, lure foreign investment, and gain international respectability. It could also make the people lose faith in her and the party, or bring about a sense of complacency.

Votes Wrote:
If Ms Suu Kyi particiapted in 2000 elections instead of boycott,the general would cheat and the West will protest,but NLD will lose,ASEAN countries will do nothing and urge her to co-operate,nothing will change.Status quo persists.

Now that Ms Suu Kyi will take part in 2012 elections,please note that it will probably be free but no fair one,as the world including US does not have 100% free and fair elections,including US.Generals are helped by their cronies' billions back up.what does Ms Suu Kyi have?

Stephen Gray Wrote:
The road ahead is long, but we have reason to be happy. Imagine five years ago talking about which position DASK should have in parliament? Despite the challenges, we have good reason to hope for Burma

sidney Wrote:
I voted for the constitution back in 2008 just after Nargos razed down the small cafe that I had.
Democracy is a snowball. Once it starts rolling, it gets bigger and bigger,
I believed it has to start somewhere, no matter how small.
Let the momentum of democracy take its course. I believe its a slow but sure process.
...only we now have to hope, no more coups to stop the process as it gets over-bearing for some...

Oo Maung Gyi Wrote:
At this juncture Suu Kyi must be in parliament to get democratic voices in side.
That will be a first stage. Secondly once she is in Naypyidaw, it will be more sure that democratic forces in side Naypyidaw will increase day by day. At last Suu Kyi can win the heart of army and all the humanist peoples except unhumanist character
peoples will not accept her. As she is sacrefying her time and life for the peoples of Burma and the country who will not accept her, only those greedy peoples and hard liners will not accept her due to their un-Bhuddistic nature and pretender.

Ohn Wrote:
What is this thing "cabinet"? What does it do? These weird pretensions are funny only to a degree.

Aung San Suu Kyi works as publicist for THein Sein.

Latt Wrote:
Ms Suu Kyi must first be elected to parliament,the President and his USDP should ensure that Ms Suu Kyi get 99.9% of the votes,then Ms Suu Kyi can be his minister, and he gets the international recognition and lifting of sanctions that he desired.

kerry Wrote:
It is obvious that she should be Prime Minister.

Maung Bama Wrote:
She should take the position of Leader of the Opposition. Many parliamentary democracies have such a position and the position holder gets the same salary and police protection as a cabinet minister in some countries.

Jean Wrote:
The UDSDA could make her minister for Electricity Production- a few weeks in the job, she would be the most hated person in Myanmar. Problem solved for the USDA :-)

Kyansittha Wrote:
I DON'T THINK SO man! She's WAY SMARTER than TAKING the POST of course.

Than Shwe has ORCHESTRATED the SCENE and DIRECTED Thein Sein for that matter to GET THE PICTURE as well since day one.

Daw Suu wouldn't take that FATAL PLUNGE to INFAMY as well I believed.

In case she did, then it would be BETTER to COMMIT SUICIDE on her part no less.

Well, NO ONE KNOWS HER MORE THAN HERSELF lest people forget as well.

Thiri Nandar Wrote:
I don't think DASSK will take a cabinet position as she clearly understand that an opposition leader in the parliament has more leverage than a minister.

One of the NLD's major objective is to change/amend the country's constitution, and she has to stay as a parliamentarian in order to fulfill that very objective.

After all, DASSK was born to lead, not to follow!

Daiwah Wrote:
Foreign Affairs..

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