[Another potential sticking point is Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi’s position in the next government. The Constitution bars her from becoming president because her two children have foreign citizenship, as did her husband. She has said she plans to have her party elect a proxy who answers to her, putting her “above” the president. But she apparently will also keep pressing to amend the Constitution, a step the army can veto.]
Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, the leader of the National League for
Democracy, and Senior Gen. Min Aung Hlaing, the commander
in chief of the military, in
Wednesday. Credit Lynn Bo Bo/European Pressphoto Agency
They are the two most powerful people in Myanmar, and their meeting on Wednesday was a crucial first step in a transition from a military-backed government to one in which the military will share power with the democracy activists it once oppressed.
The talks between the leader of Myanmar’s democracy movement, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, and the commander in chief of the military, Senior Gen. Min Aung Hlaing, were the first face-to-face encounter in what will surely be complex negotiations over how they will share power.
They met for an hour, and did not say very much afterward. “In line with the desires of the people, they agreed to cooperate on peace, the rule of law, reconciliation and the development of the country,” said a statement released by the general’s office.
Still, the contours of the negotiations are coming into focus, including several issues, known as red lines, on which the military may be unwilling to compromise.
Although Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi’s party, the National League for Democracy, won a landslide victory at the polls last month, the military, which ruled Myanmar one way or another for five decades, retains considerable power.
The league will have a majority in Parliament and the right to choose the next president, but the military will keep one-quarter of the parliamentary seats and several important ministries.
A retired senior general said in an interview that the military had accepted the idea of a civilian government and was willing to relinquish power, but gradually and under certain conditions.
“They have an exit strategy,” the general said, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal deliberations. “They will fade away from politics day by day.”
That would be an extraordinary concession; after Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi’s party won the last open election, in 1990, the military annulled the result.
But the general added that the military had “interests to protect” and warned that “the incoming government cannot be overly rapid in its reforms.”
The military has a multitude of business interests in Myanmar, including jade and ruby mines, a brewery, bus lines, tobacco and banks, some of which are owned collectively or by retired officers.
Nay Zin Latt, a former army officer and government adviser, said the democracy movement and the military appeared to share a vision of the army’s withdrawing from politics, but the question is how fast.
“Their mission is to become a professional army,” Mr. Nay Zin Latt said. “But it’s not easy. Habits are deeply rooted.”
He added, “We need stability. In
, you have spent over 200 years
to get to where you are. This is the very beginning stage of our transition.” America
The reservation of 25 percent of parliamentary seats for the military appears to be one of the non-negotiable red lines. Others, military officials have said, include retaining the current Constitution, protecting the military’s business interests and reining in rebel ethnic armies.
General Min Aung Hlaing has said the military will retain substantial political power until it is satisfied that the country is at peace internally. Fighting between ethnic militias and government troops has flared in recent weeks in northern
, part of a civil war that has
raged intermittently for decades. Myanmar
Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi’s party manifesto calls for
to be a federal union. Her
father, Aung San, hero of the country’s independence from Myanmar , signed an agreement in 1947
to give ethnic minorities “full” autonomy in administering their own affairs,
but since then ethnic groups say the military has abandoned the agreement. Britain
What the party means by federalism now is vague, but the army has generally been uneasy about greater autonomy for the resource-rich borderlands.
Another potential sticking point is Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi’s position in the next government. The Constitution bars her from becoming president because her two children have foreign citizenship, as did her husband. She has said she plans to have her party elect a proxy who answers to her, putting her “above” the president. But she apparently will also keep pressing to amend the Constitution, a step the army can veto.
A senior party figure, U Win Htein, said on Tuesday that he was confident that Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi would persuade the army to remove the constitutional barrier during the next presidential term, which is to begin in March and last five years.
Of more immediate concern are the many former military officers now holding government posts. Analysts are watching closely to see how willing existing ministers are to work with Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi’s party.
“You don’t want a situation where all the current ministers leave and say, ‘Good luck,’ ” said Richard Horsey, a former United Nations official who is now an independent political consultant.
Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi also met on Wednesday with the departing president, Thein Sein. Video of the encounter showed them in the presidential palace, sitting at a distance from each other in oversize furniture. They smiled as they spoke and bowed to each other before parting company, but the audio was muted in the video, which was released by the president’s office.
U Ye Htut, the spokesman for the departing government, said they discussed “the peaceful and smooth transfer of power” and added, “we are not accustomed” to such transitions.
The later meeting with General Min Aung Hlaing at his office in Naypyidaw, the capital, was watched more closely.
is a country where the
personalities of leaders can often be more important than the institutions they
lead, and analysts say that much was riding on the chemistry between the
general and “the Lady.” Myanmar
, so much depends on personal
relations,” said Thant Myint-U, a historian and adviser to the current
government. “They had never had a private meeting before. Developing a good
personal as well as working relationship will be very important.” Myanmar
As the general left his office, he turned to reporters and said, “We had a good discussion, and everything is O.K.”
Wai Moe contributed reporting.