Monday, February 27, 2012

The Lady: Thai-Burma inequality must be corrected

(My interview with Aung San Suu Kyi in Rangoon last Wednesday.)

Burmese Democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi says there is no real
“economic equality” between Burma and Thailand and the situation must be corrected.
“Real cooperation needs equality. At the moment, economically speaking, there is no real equality between Burma and Thailand. We have got to admit that. Once we get to the situation where our economies are more on an equal level, we can increase the areas of cooperation and exchanges between the two countries. And that would progressively help both of us,” she said in response to a question by The Nation after a meeting with Asean Secretary General Surin Pitsuwan at her residence here last week.
The leader of the National League for Democracy (NLD) did not offer details of the state of “inequality” between the two countries. She was suggesting, observers say, that Burma has been put at a disadvantage when it comes to trade and investment between the two countries.
When asked by a Singaporean journalist to elaborate on her earlier statement that she would like to see Burma surpassing every other Asean country, Aung San Suu Kyi’s prompt response was: “Why not? You need to be ambitious.”
She added, somewhat teasingly: “And I’m very happy to think that the other Asean countries are waiting to be surpassed by Burma.”
Would she say that the reform process in Burma is “irreversible?” Aung San Suu Kyi said:
“I do not know whether the army is behind the reform. We do now know where the army stands in regard to the reforms and I’ve always said that until we know that the army is solidly behind the reform movement, we cannot say the process is irreversible.”

Have the sanctions imposed by the West affected the country? She said: “The sanctions have affected the country to some extent. And the present government is very concerned with the removal of the sanctions. If the sanctions have not been effective at all, I do not see why they should worry about them.”
She expects the Western countries to make a decision on whether to lift sanctions or not after the April 1 by-election.
Commenting on speculation that she might be offered a Cabinet post in the Thein Sein government, she said:
“If I take up a Cabinet post, I would have to vacate my seat in Parliament (if I get elected in the April 1 by-elections), and I telling the people that I am not working so hard to get into Parliament simply to vacate my seat.”
What would be the first foreign country that she will visit once she decides to go abroad?
“I’ve always said that the first country I would like to visit would be Norway because of all what they did for us, during when we were going through difficult times. We never forget friends who stood by you during difficult times. This is what I would like to do, but that doesn’t mean that Norway would be the first country I visit. It depends very much on the circumstances.”

Questioned about the impact of the Arab Spring on the Burma’s situation, Aung San Suu Kyi responded:
“What the Arab Spring has taught us is that people everywhere are linked by the love for liberty, fairness, and justice. I think it’s a good revelation that we all share the basic values.”
On how Burma will balance the US, China and Asean in terms of geopolitics, she said:
“This is something we have to work out. Of course, it’s not easy because we are between two most powerful and largest countries in the world and of course Asean is at one side of us and also the West which may be further away, but closely linked. It is not impossible for us to be friends with everybody, to maintain the relationship based on understanding and mutual respect, we all have much to offer one another. Burma has experiences that other Asean countries have not had. So we can share experiences and we have a lot to offer the West. Altough we are still an economically under-developed country, we still can offer spiritual values and culture. So I hope it will be a sharing process.

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