Suu Kyi Warns of ‘Over-Optimism’

The lawmaker says India should remain patient as Burma undergoes democratic change.
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Aung San Suu Kyi arrives at Indira Gandhi International Airport in New Delhi, Nov. 13, 2012.
Aung San Suu Kyi arrives at Indira Gandhi International Airport in New Delhi, Nov. 13, 2012.

Burmese opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi on Tuesday cautioned against over-optimism about the pace of reform in her country as she began a nearly week-long visit to India—her first in at least two decades.

The Nobel laureate said too much optimism about the democratic changes instituted by President Thein Sein’s nominally civilian government could boomerang.

Aung San Suu Kyi told India particularly not to get carried away by the recent changes in her country, which is emerging from decades of harsh military rule following landmark 2010 elections.

"It's [got] to be able to take a good hard look at what is really happening," she said, according to a report by Agence France-Presse.

“Not to be over-optimistic, at the same time to be encouraging of what needs to be encouraged; because I think too much optimism doesn't help, because then you ignore what is going wrong, and if you ignore what is not right, then from not right it becomes wrong," she was quoted saying.

Aung San Suu Kyi acknowledged that Indian companies are chomping at the bit to invest in opportunities across the border in Burma, where Chinese firms are also eager to gain a foothold, but explained that "investment has to be done in the right way."

"And also we have to keep in mind that we are just at the beginning of the road to democracy, and as I keep saying, it's a road we have to build for ourselves. It's not there ready and waiting," she said.

The Burmese lawmaker told The Hindu that she was saddened by India’s embrace of Burma’s former junta, which had kept her under house arrest for most of nearly two decades before releasing her in 2010 and which had been shunned by the West for its notorious rights record.

India had been one of Aung San Suu Kyi’s biggest supporters before its decision to engage with the military government in the 1990s.

"I think rather than disappointment, sad is the word I would use because I have a personal attachment to India ... because of the closeness that existed between the countries," she said.

Some reports have said that Aung San Suu Kyi last visited India in 1987 to meet her British husband Michael Aris in Simla where he was pursuing Himalayan studies, but others said that she had not traveled to the country since studying in New Delhi while her mother served as an ambassador in the 1960s.

The opposition leader’s invitation to India, where she arrived Tuesday afternoon, is seen as part of New Delhi’s attempt to reestablish ties with Aung San Suu Kyi. She will meet with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Wednesday and later deliver the celebrated Jawaharlal Nehru memorial lecture.

Singh visited Burma in May, signing 12 agreements on a variety of bilateral issues including trade, transportation links, border development and security.

In addition to meeting with Singh on Wednesday, Aung San Suu Kyi is scheduled to meet with Burmese activists and to address students at her alma mater, Lady Shri Ram College in New Delhi.

Ahead of her visit to India, Aung San Suu Kyi donated U.S. $10,000 to relief efforts in Burma after a powerful earthquake struck the country’s second-largest city Mandalay and surrounding villages over the weekend. A second tremor hit the capital Naypyidaw on Tuesday.

At least 26 people were killed while 12 others are missing and about 230 were injured in the two quakes, the Myanmar [Burma] Red Cross Society said Tuesday.

Reported by Joshua Lipes.





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