Aung San Suu Kyi Can’t Be Burma’s President. Here’s How She’ll Run the Country Anyway.

Aung San Suu Kyi, leader of Burma's National League for Democracy party, smiles after the first session of the country's popularly elected parliament in the capital Naypyidaw on February 1, 2016.Kyodo/AP

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Update (3/15/2016): Burma’s Parliament on Tuesday elected Htin Kyaw as the country’s first civilian president after more than half a century of direct or indirect military rule. Members of parliament reportedly broke into applause when the result was announced. “Victory!” Htin Kyaw said. “This is sister Aung San Suu Kyi’s victory.”

Pro-democracy champion and Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi won’t be Burma’s next president, but she’s one step closer to ruling her country anyway: On Thursday, her political party nominated one of her closest aides as a presidential candidate. If Parliament formally selects him next week—as it’s expected to do—he’ll likely serve as a proxy, with Suu Kyi pulling the strings from behind the scenes.

After decades of brutal military rule and five years of a military-backed but quasi-civilian government, Suu Kyi’s party won a landslide victory in Burma’s general election in November. But Suu Kyi, the country’s most popular politician, can’t become president because Burma’s constitution—written by military generals—makes her ineligible for the position. So instead, her party has nominated her aide Htin Kyaw for the job. “He is the closest to Aung San Suu Kyi and he is the one who would completely follow her advice,” a member of her party told the Washington Post. The president will be chosen by Parliament from among three nominees and will assume office in April; after dominating the general election, Suu Kyi’s party holds enough seats to ensure its nominee is selected.

The Obama administration and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton have been pushing for years for democratic reform in Burma. After the general election, for example, President Obama personally called Suu Kyi to commend her work as a democracy champion. Still, Burma’s military has retained power over key ministries and continues to attack ethnic-minority rebel groups. “Burma’s not free yet,” Sean Turnell, a Burma expert in Sydney, told NPR. “It’s in a process of moving towards something better, but it’s not in that place of being a functioning democracy yet.”

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WHO DOESN’T LOVE A POSITIVE STORY—OR TWO?

“Great journalism really does make a difference in this world: it can even save kids.”

That’s what a civil rights lawyer wrote to Julia Lurie, the day after her major investigation into a psychiatric hospital chain that uses foster children as “cash cows” published, letting her know he was using her findings that same day in a hearing to keep a child out of one of the facilities we investigated.

That’s awesome. As is the fact that Julia, who spent a full year reporting this challenging story, promptly heard from a Senate committee that will use her work in their own investigation of Universal Health Services. There’s no doubt her revelations will continue to have a big impact in the months and years to come.

Like another story about Mother Jones’ real-world impact.

This one, a multiyear investigation, published in 2021, exposed conditions in sugar work camps in the Dominican Republic owned by Central Romana—the conglomerate behind brands like C&H and Domino, whose product ends up in our Hershey bars and other sweets. A year ago, the Biden administration banned sugar imports from Central Romana. And just recently, we learned of a previously undisclosed investigation from the Department of Homeland Security, looking into working conditions at Central Romana. How big of a deal is this?

“This could be the first time a corporation would be held criminally liable for forced labor in their own supply chains,” according to a retired special agent we talked to.

Wow.

And it is only because Mother Jones is funded primarily by donations from readers that we can mount ambitious, yearlong—or more—investigations like these two stories that are making waves.

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