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Suu Kyi urges world to keep pressure on Nay Pyi Taw

Publication Date : 02-06-2012


Myanmar's opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi pins her hopes on the international community for political and economic reforms


Myanmar's opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi is cautious about her country's future and is pinning her hopes on the international community ensuring that the military government's political and economic reforms remain "irreversible".

During an interview at the Word Economic Forum on East Asia 2012 in Bangkok yesterday, she said that the international community could influence reforms, which she believes should be used to improve the condition of all Myanmar people, including ethnic groups.

"I can't read their hearts or minds. We all have to make sure that they keep their word," she said at a press conference, adding that everybody should keep their promises. Since Myanmar President Thein Sein will probably step aside when his term ends in 2015, she said the future of the reforms really lies in the hands of his successor.

As for her country attracting investments, she said investors should monitor what is going on in the country, especially since much of the reform depends on national commitment.

"It's good to have optimism, but it should be cautious optimism. Now, it's reckless optimism. It's not good for you or for us," the 1991 Nobel Peace Laureate said.

Last week, the United States suspended some of its sanctions against Myanmar and Suu Kyi welcomed this as a "reward for good behaviour".

Since Myanmar will become the Asean chair in 2014, she said other members of the grouping should set standards for it to follow and explain what they want from the Asean chair.

"You don't get anything for nothing. There's no use in helping unless you engage in endeavour," Suu Kyi, who is also leader of the National League for Democracy, said.

Just as investors eye Myanmar's rich resources, the pro-democracy icon said both political and economic reforms need to go hand in hand. When asked if infrastructure or investment should come first, she said they must both come at the same time, adding that investors should demand that the government provide infrastructure in order to accommodate their investment, like road links.

However, she said, it was essential that companies ensure that the government establish the rule of law first.

"There are many good laws existing in Burma, but we do not have a clean and independent judicial system," she said, adding that without the rule of law, even good investment regulations would be of no benefit. "[But] I have to confess that not many in the government agreed with this reform. They don't see the urgent need for reforms," she said.

In terms of the investment law, which is at a draft stage, she said she would not know the details until the draft is ready. Under the current rule, it is difficult to amend the Constitution because it requires votes from every civilian as well as military backing.

Apart from the rule of law, she also stressed the need for better education and job creation. She asked for the international community to help find ways to improve the education system, which is in a "very poor" state.

Just as the country needs more PhD holders, she said the secondary education level also needs to be improved and should include vocational and informal training. She said she understood that every investor's goal is to make profits, but she believes that if Myanmar's people were better educated, they could help investors benefit further.

Suu Kyi added that job creation was a top priority, especially for the youth who are spending their time drinking, abusing drugs and gambling. If jobs are created, then people can earn a decent living, which will empower them to fight for a true democracy. She believes that even the most basic of skills will allow the Myanmar public to reap benefits from the ongoing political and economic reforms.

She also emphasised the need for transparent investment policies, since corruption and income inequality are the country's two major issues.

While Thailand is upbeat on the prospect of the Dawei development project, she said it was important that all bilateral projects remain transparent. Myanmar is as open to investment as it is to humanitarian aid, but the problem now is that the people are "completely kept in the dark" and have no chance to discuss the impacts, which can be dangerous for national reconciliation.

"Our country needs to benefit as much as the investors...We do not want investment to mean greater inequality. And we do not want investment to mean greater privileges for those already privileged," she said.

She explained that she was not discouraged by the slow pace of reforms, and sees a high possibility for national reconciliation. She said that despite the diversity of Myanmar's ethnic groups, the gap is not "unbridgeable".

Suu Kyi, who has been allowed to leave her country for the first time in 24 years, warned the world that Myanmar's reform process is not irreversible yet. "It depends on how committed the military is to the process," she explained. "It depends on national commitment. All the people must be committed to improving the state of our country."

According to her, only national commitment will bring about reconciliation and improve her country's condition.


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