YANGON, Myanmar - Myanmar’s once-hostile state-run press offered unprecedented praise Tuesday to Aung San Suu Kyi, lauding the opposition leader for working with President Thein Sein for the country’s benefit and calling the pair “the hope of Myanmar.’’
The opinion piece published in the New Light of Myanmar came amid reports of tensions over Suu Kyi’s trip to Thailand last week, reports that spokesmen for both leaders denied.
The article urged the two to continue the cooperation they began last year. Suu Kyi and her National League for Democracy party have endorsed reforms initiated by Thein Sein following decades of repressive military rule, and in April she won a seat in the army-backed Legislature, giving her an official role in government for the first time.
During her long years in opposition to Myanmar’s previous military regimes, much of it spent under house arrest, Suu Kyi was regularly lambasted in the state-owned dailies as being akin to a traitor. News coverage of her was negligible, but commentaries - often appearing under a pseudonym to allow a degree of deniability on the part of the government - were the usual vehicles for such criticism.
Tuesday’s article, titled “To the leaders who are the hope of Myanmar,’’ indicated that it was prompted by reports of tension between Thein Sein and Suu Kyi after Suu Kyi’s attention-getting trip to Thailand last week. Thein Sein had been scheduled to attend the same international economic forum she attended, but his visit was canceled.
There was speculation that Thein Sein was irritated at being upstaged by Suu Kyi, who attracted intense media interest in making her first trip abroad in 24 years.
Myanmar officials said the president was busy with affairs at home.
“I don’t think Daw Aung San Suu Kyi’s visit to Thailand has adversely affected the relationship between the president and her,’’ Nyan Win, a spokesman for the National League for Democracy, said Tuesday. “In her speeches in Bangkok, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi has expressed her confidence in the president. There should not be any misunderstanding between them.’’ Daw is an honorific for older women.
A spokesman for Thein Sein, Ko Ko Hlaing, said he did not believe the relationship between the two leaders had been affected. He said there was an “understanding’’ between them.
At the same time, there were veiled warnings to Suu Kyi to follow “the rule of law.’’ The article appeared to warn her about her party’s support of recent public protests over power shortages and its intention to try to revise the country’s constitution, which the opposition considers undemocratic because its gives the military a special unelected say in government.