Aung San Suu Kyi was supposed to set Burmese democracy free

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87% of Burmese surveyed say that they support democracy, but two-thirds believe it does not help the economy or security. Support for the military has increased since 2015

of Myanmar’s most recent election, in 2015, still cheers Kyaw Zayya. Even if he had not been covering the results as a journalist, he would have gone to the headquarters of the National League for Democracy , which swept the polls, to celebrate the end of more than 50 years of military rule. Like so many of his fellow citizens, he placed his hopes in Aung San Suu Kyi, the long-persecuted leader of the, who promised to bring peace, prosperity and democracy.

The wild hopes borne aloft by Ms Suu Kyi’s victory were always bound to collide with gunmetal reality. For one thing, Ms Suu Kyi presides over a system designed by the generals towards the end of their half-century in power, which preserves a big and inviolable role for them in government—what they call “discipline-flourishing democracy”. The constitution gives them control over their own affairs, as well as the right to appoint the ministers of defence, the interior and borders.

The government’s litigiousness has had a chilling effect. The press is less free now than it was during the final years of military rule, says Zeya Thu, the editor ofMs Suu Kyi is also not proving the ally many minorities hoped. She spent years working with political parties that champion assorted ethnic groups as they struggled against their common enemy, the Tatmadaw.

Minorities are losing faith not just in Ms Suu Kyi but in the political system itself. Aung Kaung Moe is a Rakhine student activist who was recently jailed for protesting against an internet blackout in the state. Your correspondent asks if he has ever considered going into politics. Yes, he says, often. But sometimes he wonders if he would not be better off throwing in his lot with the Arakan Army.

 

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