Aung San Suu Kyi Addresses Foreign Ambassadors in Myanmar

myanmar-assk-conference-foreign-policy-apr22-2016-305.jpg Myanmar's Foreign Minister Aung San Suu Kyi addresses diplomats in Naypyidaw, April 22, 2016.
RFA video screenshot

In her first briefing with members of the foreign diplomatic corps, Foreign Minister Aung San Suu Kyi said Friday in Naypyidaw that Myanmar will foster better relations with other countries, as the new government works to build a strong democratic nation.

She told diplomats from Singapore, Bangkok and Delhi, among others, inside the foreign affairs ministry that the new administration led by her National League for Democracy (NLD) party will work with other countries to foster better relations and peace, prosperity and friendship.

“This has always been our aim—that our country should always be the grounds for fostering better relations not just between our neighbors and ourselves, but between us and the rest of the world and between all other countries as well,” she said.

Aung San Suu Kyi also told the ambassadors that they could call her country either Burma or Myanmar, but that she herself was accustomed to calling it Burma.

“It’s up to you because there is nothing in the constitution of our country that says we must use any term in particular,” she said, adding that she would make an effort to use “Myanmar” as well from time to time.

“This is what diplomacy is all about,” she said. “We have to learn to accommodate each other. We have to be aware of other people’s problems. We have to think as much about resolving others’ problems as about resolving our own.”

“A foreign policy that is based only on getting our own way is not much of a foreign policy,” she said.

The military junta that ruled the country for a half-century until 2011 had changed the nation’s name from Burma to Myanmar in 1989, a year after thousands of people were killed during the suppression of a popular pro-democracy uprising.

Some activists and western governments, however, continued to refer to it as Burma.

Aung San Suu Kyi also holds the positions of state counselor and minister of the President’s Office under the NLD government, which came into power on April 1.

As the country’s de facto leader, she has pledged to forge lasting peace and reconciliation among Myanmar’s many ethnic groups by creating a democratic federal union, but has said little publicly about relations with foreign countries.

Earlier this month, she met with the foreign ministers of China, Canada and Italy.

‘Constructive relationships’

“What we have heard is about the importance of peace inside the country, the importance of reconciliation, and the importance of having good, constructive relationships with all countries in the world,” said Roland Kobia, the European Union’s ambassador to Myanmar, who attended the briefing.

“There seems to be enormous good will from the international community, and certainly from the European Union and all of the member states of the European Union … to support this new administration to work on the part of democracy, freedoms, rule of law, the free market economy, and notably to bring the living standards of the people to a higher level,” he said.

The EU lifted all political and economic sanctions, except for an arms embargo, against Myanmar in April 2013. The move came a year after the bloc had suspended sanctions a year earlier after the country’s quasi-civilian government led by former President Thein Sein introduced democratic reforms.

The reforms also boosted personal freedoms and allowed Aung San Suu Kyi, who had spent 15 years under house arrest, to return to national politics and be elected to parliament.

Kobia also said Myanmar deserves a much higher place among nations in the international community.

“It has all the capacities for that,” he said.

“What we need now is to put a framework in place to give all the chances to Myanmar to develop, to regain its place in the international community, to have the influence it deserves in the region and to build the best possible relationship with the countries around it,” he said.

Reported by Myo Thant Khine for RFA’s Myanmar Service. Written in English by Roseanne Gerin.

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