AGENCE FRANCE PRESSE
BANGKOK: Democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi today urged ‘healthy scepticism’ over Myanmar’s dramatic reforms, saying only the rule of law can cement recent political progress and foster clean investment.
Speaking at a gathering of world business leaders in Bangkok, she also warned China and the United States against turning Myanmar into a “battling ground” as they vie for influence over the strategically important nation.
On her first major international engagement after more than two decades of isolation, the Nobel laureate dampened what she called ‘reckless optimism’ over democratic measures taken under reformist president Thein Sein. Appealing to delegates to ‘think deeply’ about the wider good of Myanmar, she said hope in her country’s future since the end of five decades of authoritarian rule last year should be tempered by caution.
“A little bit of healthy scepticism is in order,” she told the packed auditorium.
In practical terms, Myanmar needed the ‘rule of law’ more than anticipated investment legislation, Suu Kyi said, as the country tries to embed democratic reforms, lift millions out of poverty and defuse the ‘timebomb’ of high youth unemployment.
Companies are hungrily eyeing resource-rich Myanmar after political reforms were rewarded by the easing of some international sanctions.
But Suu Kyi expressed fears a flood of investment — and international competition for a foothold in the nation — could deepen graft and serve the country’s elite.
“We do not want investment to mean more possibilities for corruption,” the 1991 Nobel Peace Prize laureate said. “We do not want investment to mean greater inequality. And we do not want investment to mean greater privileges for those already privileged.”
Resource-rich but poor Myanmar has a history of engagement with Beijing, but Washington has recently sought closer ties with the quasi-civilian government, easing some sanctions to reward the end of military rule.