Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 2 October 2014

Suu Kyi urges 'healthy scepticism'

Burmese opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi delivers a speech at the World Economic Forum on East Asia in Bangkok (AP)

Burma's opposition leader and former political prisoner Aung San Suu Kyi has urged the international community to exercise "healthy scepticism" as her country sheds half a century of military rule.

Ms Suu Kyi noted that Burma is still in very early phases of making democratic reforms. The Nobel Peace Prize winner and new parliamentarian is on her first trip outside Burma in decades.

In a speech to the World Economic Forum in Bangkok, she said: "These days I am coming across what I call reckless optimism." She drew applause by adding that "healthy scepticism is in order".

Ms Suu Kyi listed the country's most essential needs as secondary education to foster political reforms and jobs to end high youth unemployment, which she called "a time bomb".

The forum's founder, Klaus Schwab, introduced Ms Suu Kyi as "one of the most extraordinary personalities this century".

The 66-year-old spent 15 years locked under house arrest by the former military regime. She was granted freedom after Burma held elections in 2010 and was elected to Parliament in April this year.

Since then, Burma's president Thein Sein has surprised much of the world by engineering sweeping reforms, but Ms Suu Kyi noted that the country is still in the very early phases of making democratic reforms.

Burma's reforms have prompted the the US and Europe to ease economic sanctions they imposed during the military's regime, but some human rights groups have warned that while those moves are good for the country's development, they will weaken incentives to continue democratic reforms.

Ms Suu Kyi's speech lasted about 10 minutes and was followed by a question-answer session with Mr Schwab. She focused her talk on how the world could help "that little piece of the world that some of us call Burma and some of us call Myanmar".

She said Burma still lacks rule of law and an independent judiciary, adding: "We need basic education in Burma, the kind of education that will enable our people to earn a decent living for themselves."

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