Suu Kyi suggests newly constructed road might help malnutrition in Kachin State.

State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi on Aug. 15, 2018. Photo: State Counsellor’s Office

Speeches for road openings are usually pretty boring. Sometimes that’s a good thing.

That was demonstrated to good effect on Wednesday when State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi went off-script in Kachin State and suggested the new road might lead to growth spurts given that “ethnic nationals are small in stature” because they don’t eat enough. Yikes.

That somewhat-related tangent came during what should have been a routine speech thanking all parties involved in the paving of the road.

“I’ve noticed that most of the ethnic nationals are small in stature. I think you all require more nutritious food,” Myanmar’s de facto leader said at the opening ceremony. “I’m sure this road would allow much more nutritious food to be transported to you.” Um … thanks?

That’s not to say that there’s no truth whatsoever to the statement. Fact is, while Myanmar is a resource rich country, with a surplus in rice, uneven distribution and low investments on infrastructure has indeed impacted food security.

According to the World Food Programme (WFP), more than 35% of children in Myanmar show signs of stunted growth caused by chronic malnutrition, while 8 percent are acutely malnourished. And yes, rural areas including Kachin State tend to suffer the most.

That said, we’re guessing the broad-brush “small in stature” line is one she wishes she could rethink. Then again, given her track record over the past year, maybe not.


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