CHIANGRAI TIMES – A state-run newspaper in Myanmar published an analysis on Tuesday expressing concerns that the “hard-won trust” between President Thein Sein and Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, the Nobel laureate and opposition leader, could “vanish.”
The article in The New Light of Myanmar described “anxieties” in the wake of Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi’s recent trip to Thailand and appeared to criticize her for warning investors at a high-level business meeting here to be cautious about investing in Myanmar, which she said was not yet a “genuinely democratic society.” The statements undercut the government’s message that the country, one of the poorest in Asia, is ripe for investment.
The article appeared to be the latest suggestion that the trip had strained the relationship between Mr. Thein Sein and Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi, now a Parliament member. Cooperation between the two is considered essential to continuing the country’s drive toward democracy.
The New Light of Myanmar was the government’s main mouthpiece under military rule, but with the country’s news media landscape now evolving, it is unclear how much the paper reflects the thinking of Mr. Thein Sein’s government and whether the article can be taken as an official rebuke or warning.
Still, the newspaper, which is used to publish what are essentially government news releases, has not allowed analyses that cut against government policy.
The article said the future of the country “depends completely on cooperation of the two leaders,” echoing a sentiment by many in Myanmar that the country’s push for democratic changes is personality driven, and therefore vulnerable.
“I am also concerned that this golden opportunity will be lost,” wrote the author, who signed his name as Maung Aye Chan and described himself as a Burmese expatriate living in the United States. It is unclear if that is the author’s real name.
In a possible suggestion that whatever rift exists between the leaders is not too wide, the article also called Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi a “leader,” in sharp contrast to the disparaging words that the official news media employed to describe her during the country’s years under military rule.
The first indication of friction came when the president canceled his own trip to Thailand after Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi announced her travel plans, with his aides initially saying he was too busy. But an adviser later criticized Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi as lacking “transparency.”
And on Tuesday, U Tin Maung Thann, who is helping the government negotiate peace agreements with ethnic groups and who has met Mr. Thein Sein several times recently, said the president was disappointed in Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi because her team did not share details of her visit with him.
“To some extent, yes, he was upset,” Mr. Tin Maung Thann said in a telephone interview. “But he is smart enough not to escalate the tensions.”
Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi’s visit to Thailand, a six-day trip that ended Sunday, was her first journey abroad in 24 years. Her last-minute request to visit the Thai-Myanmar border last week took the Myanmar and Thai governments by surprise. Mr. Thein Sein’s government is negotiating peace agreements with a number of ethnic groups in the area that have fought Myanmar’s government on and off for decades.
Mr. Tin Maung Thann said the main cause of tension between Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi and the president had been communications. “If she had a plan, he wanted to know about it,” he said.