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Defiant and defensive, Suu Kyi struggles to bridge Myanmar's divisions

Human rights, economic issues mar her government's first anniversary

Souvenirs at Aung San Suu Kyi's party office in Yangon   © GettyImages

YANGON Aung San Suu Kyi's first anniversary as Myanmar's de facto leader should have been the celebration of a glorious beginning. The year started with the handover of power on March 30, 2016, by the military-backed government of President Thein Sein to her National League for Democracy. Months earlier, the NLD had swept national elections, winning nearly 80% of contested parliamentary seats.

Yet the state counselor, as composed and elegantly attired as ever, displayed a curious blend of defiance, defensiveness and rare humility on her government's anniversary. In a televised address from Naypyitaw, the capital, she acknowledged public criticism of issues ranging from the inexperience of cabinet ministers to human rights and a perceived lack of economic progress. But one year was "not a very long time," she said. "When we speak of changing the system, we need to understand that it involves changing the old system that has been deeply entrenched in our society for over 50 years."

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