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Myanmar sitting on a 'time bomb'

Publication Date : 02-06-2012

 

Myanmar urgently needs training schemes and investments to create jobs to ward off youth unemployment, Aung San Suu Kyi told the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Bangkok.

"The proportion of young people unemployed in Burma is extremely high. That is a time bomb," she said yesterday during a talk and an exchange of views with WEF executive chairman Klaus Schwab and the audience.

Unemployed young people "sit around tea shops, toddy palm shops, take to drugs, take to gambling", Suu Kyi said.

"What I'm afraid of is not so much joblessness but hopelessness," she added.

Beefing up secondary education and vocational training is vital as it will enable these youngsters to take advantage of the jobs that investments will open up.

But Myanmar's democracy icon also warned investors against "reckless optimism".

She called for balance and transparency so that investments would not end up benefiting only a few individuals or groups. This would worsen the inequality gap that already exists in Myanmar, where a few well-connected businessmen have amassed fortunes while most people remain poor.

"We do not want more investment to mean more possibilities for corruption... or greater inequality or... greater privileges for the already privileged," said the Nobel Peace laureate.

Her appearance at the WEF marked her return to the international stage two months after her National League for Democracy swept by-elections in Myanmar, winning 43 parliamentary seats.

Suu Kyi, 66, also spoke at a packed press conference where she appeared confident and talkative. She later took part in a panel discussion on the role of women in Asia.

"My message to investors: Please make sure that whatever you do is transparent, not just in investment but in development and humanitarian aid as well," she said at the press conference.

"Whatever investments, government agreements, aid - please make sure that they are transparent, that the people of Burma are in a position to understand what is being done and who will benefit."

As for the rush to invest in Myanmar, she cautioned that "a little bit of healthy scepticism is in order".

"We do not have a clean and independent judicial system, and unless we have such a system, it is no use having the best laws in the world," she said.

"So would-be investors, please be warned, even the best investment laws will be of no use if there are no courts clean enough or independent enough to be able to administer these laws justly."

She highlighted the urgent need for judicial reforms.

"So far, we are not aware of any reforms on the judicial front. Not many in the government seem to think there is a need for judicial reform... I consider it very urgent indeed."

Asked how irreversible the reform process in Myanmar is, she said it "depends on how committed the military is to this reform process".

"I do believe in the sincerity of (President Thein Sein) when he speaks of his commitment to reform, but I also recognise that he is not the only person in government; there is the military to be reckoned with."

 

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