′The Lady′ urges against ′reckless optimism′ | Asia| An in-depth look at news from across the continent | DW | 01.06.2012
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'The Lady' urges against 'reckless optimism'

Addressing investors in Bangkok, Myanmar's democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi called for transparency and warned them to be cautious about the reform process. She promised migrant workers she would do her best for them.

Myanmar's pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi greets migrant workers from Myanmar, as she visits them in Samut Sakhon province May 30, 2012. Nobel Peace Prize winner Suu Kyi ventures outside Myanmar for the first time in 24 years on Tuesday in an unmistakable display of confidence in the liberalisation taking shape in her country after five decades of military rule. REUTERS/Sukree Sukplang (THAILAND - Tags: POLITICS SOCIETY IMMIGRATION TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY)

Aung San Suu Kyi Besuch Thailand Treffen mit Gastarbeitern aus Myanmar

On Friday, Myanmar's democracy icon and Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, who met migrant workers and ethnic leaders from Myanmar during her first trip out of her country in over two decades, told delegates at the World Economic Forum on East Asia that her country faced challenges in efforts to bridge the economic gaps with the outside world.

Aung San Suu Kyi, also known as "the Lady," spoke of her hopes as her country moves ahead with reform but also told foreign investors to avoid "reckless optimism."

Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi delivers a speech

Aung San Suu Kyi's presence at the forum would have been unthinkable just months ago

Her presence dominated this week's World Economic Forum for East Asia in Bangkok, with business delegates and diplomats keenly hanging on her every word, especially considering her presence at such an event would have been unthinkable just a year ago.

'A time bomb'

Reforms led by Myanmar's President Thein Sein and the election successes of Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy have triggered a feeling of optimism about the country's future and transition to democracy.

The process has led to the partial lifting of economic sanctions by the United States and the European Union, which Suu Kyi has welcomed.

At the forum, she called for global business to support economic development in Myanmar in the face of high rates of youth unemployment.

"The proportion of young people unemployed in Burma is extremely high. That is a time bomb," she said.

She added that while she understood it was the job of business people to invest in countries in the hope of profiting from ventures, Myanmar "must benefit as much as those who invest."

Delegates in Bangkok

Suu Kyi urged delegates to be transparent

"I want this commitment to mean quite simply jobs - as many jobs as possible," she said.

Transparency in business and aid

She also called for transparency in business as well as in aid and humanitarian programs. The partial lifting of economic sanctions is expected to lead to a wave of assistance funds entering the country.

Debbie Stothard, spokesperson for the Alternative ASEAN Network, said Suu Kyi's calls for transparent and ethical investment were "very important."

"There's such a push for business and investment in Burma, but I think Aung San Suu Kyi's remarks were a reality check and a wake up call to the business community and the world at large," she told DW.

'My very best'

Soon after arriving in Thailand, Suu Kyi travelled out to a the province of Samut Sakhon, near the capital Bangkok, where she met thousands of migrant workers from Myanmar, who play key roles in the processing, construction and fishing industries and had eagerly anticipated her visit.

Speaking from a balcony to the crowds below, she told her compatriots that they should be aware of their responsibilities and their rights. While making no definite promises she said she would try her "very best" to improve their lives.

Myanmar's pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi addresses migrant workers

Thousands of migrant workers gathered to hear 'the Lady'

Andy Hall, a migrant worker rights advocate who helped plan Suu Kyu's visit to the province, said her visit had been very significant.

"When she came it was just like there was a spirit, or this new light in their hearts, and seeing them shouting for their 'mother Suu' was just unbelievable."

In Bangkok on Friday, Suu Kyi told the media that economic progress in Myanmar held the key for the migrant workers' chance to return.

"We've got to make our country a place they can come home to. Security - that means economic security - and peace - that means political peace. So we've go to improve conditions in our country," she said.

On Saturday, Suu Kyi is travelling to the border town of Mae Sot to meet refugees at the Mae La refugee camp as well as doctors at a local clinic. She will also hold talks with leaders from several ethnic armed groups, including the Karen, Kachin, Arakan and Shan.

Analysts say the meeting, which will be the first Suu Kyi has held face to face with ethnic groups, is a crucial step to ensuring national reconciliation in Myanmar.

Author: Ron Corben
Editor: Anne Thomas

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