Nobel Laureate and opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi has asked the US and China not to turn Myanmar into a "battling ground" as they vie for influence there. She was speaking on her landmark trip to Thailand.
Aung San Suu Kyi addressed business leaders at the World Economic Forum on East Asia in Bangkok on Friday morning, a major appointment in her first trip abroad in 24 years.
The Nobel Peace Prize laureate's speech touched on several key issues, appealing for job creation programs in her impoverished country and speaking of a high unemployment rate.
"The proportion of young people unemployed in Burma is extremely high. That is a time bomb," Suu Kyi told regional business leaders. "Please don't think about how much benefit will come to those who are investing. I understand investors invest because they hope to profit from ventures - I agree with that - but our country must benefit as much as those who invest."
Suu Kyi said she wanted commercial commitment in the country also known as Burma "to mean quite simply jobs - as many jobs as possible."
She also appealed to Washington and Beijing not to start scrapping over influence in the country now that its military leaders have begun a gradual reform process.
"A lot of people are talking now about what the position of Burma will be now that we are starting to engage … more with the United States and how it will affect our relations with China," Suu Kyi said. "I'm always very concerned when Burma is seen as a battling ground for those two big countries."
Courts should be next reform target
Western sanctions targeting Myanmar have been largely lifted since the military rulers started introducing democratic reforms, with Suu Kyi competing for and winning a parliamentary seat being one of the most powerful results of this change. The opposition leader warned, however, that the reform process was in its fledgling stages.
"These days I am coming across what I call reckless optimism. A little bit of healthy skepticism is in order I think," the 66-year-old said.
One area where Suu Kyi remains skeptical is in the courts. She cautioned the business leaders that economic and political reforms would be meaningless unless the legal system in "that little piece of the world that some of us call Burma and some of us call Myanmar" is also adapted.
"Would-be investors in Burma please be warned: even the best investment law will be of no use whatsoever if there are not courts clean or independent enough to be able to administer those laws justly," she said.
Suu Kyi spoke for about 10 minutes in total. The opposition leader had in the past refused to leave Myanmar, saying she feared that she would not be allowed back into the country.
msh/pfd (AFP, AP, dpa, Reuters)