Myanmar: Discord between President Thein Sein and Aung San Suu Kyi reported; Sectarian unrest erupts in West Myanmar

Updated On: Jun 05, 2012

Reports that Ms Aung San Suu Kyi’s recent trip to Thailand has sparked anger in the Myanmar government have been circulating the news. In addition, the sectarian divide in Myanmar seems to be on the rise, with the most recent case involving deaths of at least nine Muslims.

President Thein Sein vs. Ms Aung San Suu Kyi?

There have been reports that Myanmar pro-democratic leader Aung San Suu Kyi’s trip to Thailand for the World Economic Forum has caused some dissension between government leaders and Ms Suu Kyi herself.

According to Nay Zin Latt, advisor to President Thein Sein, Ms Suu Kyi’s trip lacked “transparency”. The advisor also noted that government was upset that Ms Suu Kyi had warned international investors against “reckless optimism” over Myanmar. President Thein Sein’s trip to Thailand was abruptly cancelled last week, with speculation that this was due to the government’s unhappiness with the way Bangkok seemed to be prioritizing Ms Suu Kyi’s visit over others.

As such, there have been concerns that tensions between Ms. Suu Kyi and President Thein Sein would hinder Myanmar’s progress significantly, since their alliance has been a cornerstone for reform in the country. However, Ms Suu Kyi’s smooth return home suggested that any hints of discord have been overplayed. Previously, during the military junta’s rule, Ms Suu Kyi had refused to leave the country for fear that it would not allow her to return.

The general consensus among many academics and experts points to the fact it is clear that both the President and Ms Suu Kyi are keen on transforming Myanmar for the better. Hence, rapport between the two is likely overwrite any minor disagreements that may occur over time.

Sectarian unrest in Western Myanmar

At least nine Muslims were killed yesterday by Buddhist residents in the Rakhine state of western Myanmar – a sign that sectarian tensions may be spreading in the country despite the installation of President Thein Sein's new civilian government more than a year ago. Previously, clashes between local Buddhists and the Muslims that have moved into their state from Bangladesh to work have occurred periodically.

The region, which has a large Muslim minority population, saw violence erupt when a mob of Buddhist Rakhines beat and killed a bus of Muslims whom they believed were responsible for the murder and rape of a local girl. They later torched the vehicle.

Police fired rubber bullets at protestors who had gathered outside a police station in the town of Sittwe and had mistakenly thought that a local politician had been kidnapped and killed by Muslims. It is believed that 10 or more people were injured as a result.

Although there are contradictory reports as to what triggered the protest, some account suggest that anti-Muslim sentiment could have played a part.

Report: Sectarian unrest spreads in west Myanmar [Channel NewsAsia, 4 June 2012]

Report: Buddhist vigilantes kill 9 Muslims in Myanmar violence [ Reuters, 4 June 2012]

Report: Hints of a rift between Myanmar’s political reformers [New York Times, 3 June 2012]

Report: Myanmar leaders compete with Suu Kyi stardom to showcase changes [Bloomberg, 3 June 2012]

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