RANGOON — Those who became wealthy during Burma’s era of military rule should be given another chance to reform themselves, opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi told reporters while attending parliamentary meetings in Naypyidaw on Jan. 9.
The chairman of the National League for Democracy (NLD) and member of Burma’s Parliament said that cronies of the former ruling generals should be investigated for any alleged wrongdoing, but should be considered innocent until proven guilty.
Even if they have committed crimes, they should be given a chance to reform themselves, she added.
“People may have become rich in different ways. But whether they were involved in any illegal action to make themselves rich must be investigated,” said the opposition leader.
The right of criminals to rehabilitate themselves should be regarded as part of the rule of law, she said, adding that punishment that is solely intended to inflict suffering is barbaric. “What civilized people should have is a vision that punishment is for reform,” she said.
Suu Kyi made the remarks following criticism of her party’s acceptance of donations from several well-known cronies and their companies during a fund-raising drive for education and health-care projects.
“Those who are considered cronies have supported the social activities of the NLD and others. What is wrong with that? Instead of spending their money on things that have no purpose, they have supported things that they should support. It’s a good thing,” said Suu Kyi.
“I don’t mind if they approach the NLD or other organizations, as long as their support is beneficial to our people, democratic reforms and our country’s health and education needs. This is something we should welcome,” added the NLD chairman.
On Dec. 27-28, the NLD held a fundraiser in Rangoon to mark the second anniversary of the party’s education network. The event attracted many donors, including some who are known to have built fortunes through their close ties with Burma’s former military regime.
During the event, Sky Net, a television operator and a subsidiary of Shwe Than Lwin Company owned by Kyaw Win, donated 135 million kyat (US $158,824) and Htoo Company owned by Tay Za donated 70 million kyat ($82,353).
Earlier this month, Suu Kyi visited a children’s hospital in Rangoon’s Yankin Township that is supported with donations from the Max Myanmar Company of Zaw Zaw, a Western-sanctioned Burmese crony.
The United States and some other Western countries have put many Burmese business tycoons on their economic sanctions list for having close connections with the former junta, which was accused of committing gross human rights violations across the country.
According to economic analysts, most of Burma’s major businesses are controlled by cronies, the military-backed Union of Myanmar Economic Holdings Limited (UMEHL) and the Myanmar Economic Corporation.
On Jan. 9, Lt-Gen Khin Zaw Oo, the UMEHL chairman, visited Suu Kyi in Naypyidaw. During her foreign trips last year, Suu Kyi publicly stated several times that military-owned businesses in Burma are not transparent.
Dr U Myint, an economic adviser to President Thein Sein, has said that Burmese cronies cannot be abandoned if the country is to develop its economy.
Max Myanmar’s Zaw Zaw, who became one of the top businessmen in Burma under military rule, told The Irrawaddy that he wanted to be a crony who contributes to the good of Burma’s democracy and economic development.
“I don’t want to be a bad crony. I want to be a good one,” said Zaw Zaw.