July 3, 2014

MYANMAR/BURMA: Aung San Suu Kyi Warned To Avoid Looking At Burma “Through Rose-Tinted Glasses”. Keep The Pressure To Ensure The Government Delivers Real Power To The People.

Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, in Yangon at the weekend, says real power still eludes her people.
Picture: Amos Aikman Source: Supplied

The Australian
written by Amos Aikman
Monday June 30, 2014

THE world has been overly optim­istic about political reform in Myanmar, and must now step up pressure to ensure the government delivers real power to the people rather than a “veneer” of democracy concealing ongoing authoritarian military rule, oppos­ition leader Aung San Suu Kyi has urged.

The Nobel Peace Prize laureate and chairwoman of the Nation­al League for Democracy warned all those interested in the Myanmar democratisation process to avoid looking at the country “through rose-tinted glasses”.

“Everybody has been talking about the tremendous reforms that have come to our country, but I think it all has been overstated,” Ms Suu Kyi said.

“What has been done in this country is nowhere like enough.”

Ms Suu Kyi made the comments in an exclusive interview with The Australian, just days before she is due to meet Foreign Minister Julie Bishop.

Ms Bishop will fly to Myanmar tomorrow for a three-day visit to emphasise Australia’s support for the country’s political reforms and to hold out the prospect of stronger economic ties.

The meeting this week follows Ms Suu Kyi’s visit to Australia in November, when she held talks in Canberra with Tony Abbott, who described her as an “icon of democracy” who had suffered for her beliefs in democratic freedoms.

Yesterday, Ms Suu Kyi said Australia had a special duty as one of Myanmar’s largest aid donors.

“I’m sure what the people of Australia would want their money to be used for is genuine democratisation, and not just a veneer,” she said.

“Any donor, not just Australia, has a responsibility to the people of the country they help to make sure that it’s the people they are helping and not any particular government or individuals.”

The Australian has been told of concerns within Myanmar that Defence Minister David Johnston might ease military sanctions against the country’s regime. Ms Suu Kyi indicated she would oppose any such move.

“Defence sanctions are the most sensitive ones, because it has to do with the military,” she said. “Democracy and military dictatorship are total opposites. I think for the time being (Australia) should wait to see how things emerge, because the amendments to the constitution are closely linked to the special privileges that the military has been given under the constitution.”

In a warming of relations in January, the Abbott government sent the patrol boat HMAS Childers to Myanmar and then appointed a defence attache in Yangon — the first Australian post of its kind since a similar position was left vacant in 1979.

Defence sources in Canberra yesterday played down the likelihood of any substantial change in military relations.

Ms Bishop is using her visit to encourage the country’s trans­ition to democracy. “Australia is playing an important role in supporting Burma’s economic development and reform, particularly in promoting greater education opportunities to help achieve peace and stability,” she said.

“I will reaffirm Australia’s support for the reform process and for the Myanmar government’s chairmanship of ASEAN this year. I will meet with Australian business representatives to discuss what the Australian and Myanmar governments can do to enhance trade and investment links.”

Ms Suu Kyi is eager to find a way to change her country’s constitution, which bars her from running for president in elections scheduled for next year. The NLD is expected to win a majority of seats, if the poll is free and fair. Earlier this month, a committee charged with exploring constit­utional amendments recom­mended against changing the section that bars Ms Suu Kyi from running.

The move drew criticism from the US State Department, which said enabling the Myanmar people to freely choose their own leader would help ensure stability.

Ms Suu Kyi said countries such as the US and Australia had been right to ease sanctions after the government began political reforms.

However, she cautioned against over-optimism and complacency.

“Too much optimism simply means that people become complacent, and don’t really get on with what they have to do, because they think that they’ve done enough.”

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