The man appointed by Burma’s president to head a new economic advisory body says he has been “exchanging ideas” with Aung San Suu Kyi, the country’s most prominent opposition figure and victim of persistent attempts by the government to sideline.
Yesterday’s nomination of U Myint by the hardline Burmese president, Thein Sein, has raised eyebrows, not least because he is a known political moderate with close ties to the revered Nobel laureate.
“I have known Daw Aung San Suu Kyi for a long time now and we understand each other,” he told DVB today.
“She is friendly and we have kept in contact. She wishes for a better nation and reconciliation and I also wish the same. I pretty much rely on her – she can do a lot. I want her to work in the economic sector and she would also like to.”
The revelation may cause concern in Naypyidaw, whose repeated attempts to cast Suu Kyi into the political wilderness through house arrest and denial of a role in the elections last year have drawn international condemnation.
U Myint said the president met with him in person earlier this month and appeared keen to get advices from experts. He former Rangoon University professor, now 73, has served as a senior economist with the UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and Pacific (UNESCAP).
“Giving an advise is easy, but the real question is how that would translate into practise,” he said. “I don’t expect things to get better immediately. If you ask what can U Myint alone do, I’d say nothing.”
Before her return to Burma in 1988, Suu Kyi had gained a degree in Politics, Philosophy and Economics (PPE) from the UK’s prestigious Oxford University.
But while she passed some 15 years under house, Burma’s economy crumbled. It is now the poorest country in Southeast Asia and ranks 132 out of 169 global countries on the UN’s Human Development Index.
Around 16 million people live in desperate hardship in Burma, where average annual salaries hover at around $US400. The new government, sworn in in March, has allocated only 1.3 percent of a revised budget to the healthcare sector, while nearly a quarter will go on the military.