Wednesday, September 7, 2011

U Myint Persuading ASSK To Become A Moderate?

(This is a leaked 2009 cable of Rangoon US Embassy from WIKILEAKS.)


U Myint and ASSK at Recent Government Economic Forum.

Classified By: Economic Officer Marc Porter for Reasons 1.4 (b) & (d)


1.  (C)  U Myint, a prominent Burmese economist, is
cautiously seeking a meeting with Aung San Suu Kyi (ASSK) and
plans to advise she shift her focus from politics to
socio-economic themes.  U Myint sees economic development as
the greatest challenge facing Burma and an issue on which
ASSK can have a beneficial impact without being perceived by
the generals as a threat.  Moreover, U Myint believes that
given the state of the economy and ASSK's lack of experience
running a government, the military will need to retain some
control over society until institutions are rebuilt.  We
comment that in the Burma environment, economic issues are
intensely political.  We also note the military's
unimpressive track record on governance.  End Summary.

Seeking meeting with ASSK

2.  (C)  In a September 29 meeting, retired United Nations
economist U Myint (see para 7 for bio info) told Econoff he
is seeking a private meeting with ASSK to advise she abandon
head-on political confrontation with the Burmese regime and
shift to a socio-economic focus.  If granted access to ASSK,
U Myint said he plans to advise she change tacks in
confronting the military.  He is convinced she cannot succeed
in effecting change if her focus remains exclusively
political.  The constitution is a reality and the 2010
elections will happen; so to battle against them is
counterproductive, U Myint said.  In his view, a longer term
strategy should focus first on improving basic economic
conditions for Burma's citizens.

3.  (C)  U Myint and ASSK initially began a dialogue on
economic themes during a less restrictive period of her house
arrest during the Khin Nyunt era.  At the time, U Myint also
was informally advising the circle of military officers close
to Khin Nyunt.  Through unnamed intermediaries, presumably
National League for Democracy (NLD) members, U Myint claims
he has recently exchanged messages with ASSK and says each
wants to re-start their earlier dialogue.  He added that the
last exchange was about a month ago, and at the time ASSK
told him she needs to "finish" her appeal and have access to
her party's leadership before pushing for a meeting with him.
 (Note:  An appeal judgment is expected October 2.  End
note.)  Separately, P/E Chief heard from a Western diplomatic
contact that ASSK is seeking a meeting with U Myint.

What would he say to ASSK?

4.  (C)  In U Myint's view, addressing economic stresses on
society is first priority as those stresses are approaching
critical levels.  He plans to suggest five broad economic
areas on which ASSK should focus: poverty reduction,
humanitarian relief, education, health, and the environment.
These are areas where U Myint believes the generals could
conceivably stomach ASSK's involvement.  Moreover, meaningful
progress on these issues would serve to boost ASSK's already
high popularity.  U Myint stated that given the extent of
damage to the country's institutions and the tenuous nature
of most people,s livelihoods, ASSK and the NLD by themselves
currently lack the capacity to solve Burma's economic
problems and form a functional government.  In his view, the
military will be needed in the short and medium term to
maintain order as the nation rebuilds.

Advice to the West

5.  (C)  U Myint cautioned that foreigners (presumably
Westerners) should try to keep ASSK at a distance.  He thinks
public (or even private but known to the GOB) interaction
between ASSK and outsiders undermines her by reinforcing
military fears that she is a foreign pawn advancing foreign


6.  (C)  U Myint's suggestion that ASSK should focus on
economic rather than political issues begs the reality that
in poverty-stricken and mismanaged Burma economic problems
are political indictments.  We would be surprised if the
generals would find an ASSK emphasis on correcting economic
flaws any more palatable than an emphasis on "political"
themes.  U Myint's belief that the military will need to play
a continuing security role during any transition is surely
true.  ASSK herself has acknowledged as much.  The important
issue is how much continuing role the military would play in
choosing the nation's political leaders and in day-to-day

Biographic information

7.  (C)  Biographic information:  U Myint worked for the
Burmese Ministry of Foreign Affairs and for the UN for many
years before retiring.  He continues to hold seminars on
economic themes and delivers lectures to mid-level military
officers at the National Defense University, and worked on
the Burmese translation of the original Post-Nargis Joint
Assessment .  He has also, at times, provided economic advice
to prominent opposition leaders.  His family is
well-connected and his brother is a retired Burmese


(U Myint is now the Chief Economic Adviser of President Thein Sein.)