March 30, 2017 / 5:51 PM / 6 months ago

A year on, Myanmar's Suu Kyi acknowledges reforms have been slow

FILE PHOTO: Myanmar's opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi speaks to the Myanmar community living in Singapore, on the island of Sentosa in Singapore September 22, 2013. REUTERS/Edgar Su/File Photo

YANGON (Reuters) - A year after sweeping to power in a historic vote, Myanmar’s first de-facto civilian leader in about half a century, Aung San Suu Kyi, acknowledged on Thursday the public’s frustration with the slow pace of reforms and development.

With a festering Rohingya crisis, increased fighting with ethnic armed groups and a slower economic growth, Suu Kyi has struggled to match the sky-high expectations that swept her National League for Democracy (NLD) to power a year ago.

“We did what we can for the sake of our country and the people in one year,” said the Nobel Peace Prize winner in a televised address.

“We know that we weren’t able to make as much progress as people had wanted ... One year is not a long period,” she said.

NLD lawmakers have told Reuters that voters in their constituencies feel frustrated because of pervasive low-level corruption, ramshackle public services and wages among the lowest in Southeast Asia.

In a major blow to Suu Kyi’s reputation as the legendary defender of human rights, the United Nations last week announced an investigation into allegations of crimes against humanity committed against the Rohingya Muslim minority by soldiers during a security operation last year.

As a result of the military crackdown, about 75,000 Rohingya have fled to Bangladesh. The U.N. investigators have accused the soldiers of widespread abuses, including rapes, killings, arson and looting.

Suu Kyi also talked about her number one priority of ending the myriad ethnic conflicts involving about 20 rebel groups that have kept Myanmar in a state of near-perpetual civil war since independence in 1948.

“Peace process is not easy. We have a lot of hope ... But hope is just hope - nothing is for sure yet. We have to keep trying,” she said.

Around the time of her speech, the government announced that five more groups had decided to join the landmark peace deal engineered by the previous semi-civilian administration.

Still, major rebel armies engaged in active clashes with the military have not come forward. Several conflicts have reignited since Suu Kyi took office, displacing an estimated 160,000 more people, according to U.N. data.

“Last year, I said the motto was, ‘It’s time for change’. Now ... I want to say the motto is: ‘Together with people’,” she said.

Additional reporting by Wa Lone, Aye Win Myint and Simon Lewis; Editing by Andrew Heavens

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