Myanmar’s leading opposition party, the National League for Democracy, achieved a landslide victory in the general election on Nov. 8, and its leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, is slated to lead the new government.
Are foreign investors happy with the result or concerned about the NLD taking power?
Those who have already invested in the country or tied up with existing groups in Myanmar worry that their privileged positions might be in jeopardy. Other non-Burmese groups, including most people working for international organizations, as well as U.S. President Barack Obama, are perfectly content with the NLD replacing the current administration. Many ambitious young people and start-up companies are hoping this second group will bring massive capital and technologies to them, which Myanmar sorely needs to develop.
The last meeting of the powerful Myanmar Investment Commission under the current government took place, after a number of delays, on Oct. 23. The MIC meeting is believed to have lowered barriers to investment. With few exceptions, foreign investors who already made investments with the MIC’s approval had the MIC’s blessing — a valuable privilege. Some of these investors had committed to tie up with large Myanmar groups, including MIC itself, and they are worried.
Another concern is the potential for disputes between the NLD government and the military. In 1990’s general election, Suu Kyi’s NLD emerged victorious, but the military junta, which ruled Myanmar at the time, refused to recognize the result. It instead invested power in the State Peace and Development Council to draw up a road map for democratization of the country. A constitution, parliamentary system and supreme court were set up.
In the more than 26 years since then, Suu Kyi has loudly advocated the concept of the rule of law. Currently, the military is still permitted to intervene in politics, but it has far less incentive than in 1990.
Suu Kyi has already shown strong leadership, wisely conveying the message that the rule of law is the most important principle. This message is a comfort to the military, in which she has developed relationships over the last few years, knowing she would need their backing to change the constitution when she took power. The military runs the major conglomerates, Myanmar Economic Corporation (MEC) and Myanmar Economic Holdings Limited (MEHL), which were set up to take care of the welfare of military personnel. Suu Kyi, in her many speeches about the rule of law, has signaled that she will not strip the military of its interests. As a result, the military must feel comfortable with Suu Kyi and her administration.
She has a number of other powerful people on her side, as well, including Thein Sein, Myanmar’s first president, with whom Suu Kyi has had a relationship of trust ever since they met in August 2011.
Many people have noted the similarities between Suu Kyi and Deng Xiaoping, who was China’s paramount leader for many years. Both were imprisoned and suffered for a long time before emerging as charismatic leaders.
Source: Asian Review