Suu Kyi Looks to 'Good Neighbor' China

By Aung Thet Wine 4 July 2012

In response to Beijing’s concerns over her close relations with the West, Burma’s opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi on Tuesday said she is paying serious attention to China and accepts it as a good neighbor even though the two countries have different political systems.

“The National League for Democracy [NLD] has always tried to develop a good relationship with China. We will continue to do so and hope for positive results from our endeavors,” Suu Kyi told reporters on Tuesday at a press conference following her 17-day visit to Europe.

She noted that Burma was one of the first countries to recognize the Chinese Communist government more than 60 years ago.

“So it is not true that we can’t have good relations because of different systems,” stressed the opposition leader. “Burma and China have enjoyed very warm and friendly relations, and problems were peacefully settled whenever they arose.”

The press conference coincided with the release of about 20 political prisoners under a presidential amnesty, and Suu Kyi addressed the issue passionately: “Release all political prisoners! We have 330 political prisoners on our list. Release all of them!” Suu Kyi urged the government.

The opposition leader also told reporters that during her tour to Europe, she found much European support and willingness to assist Burma’s democratic reforms.

“When I met with leaders from European countries, they all said they fully support the democratic reform process in Burma. They said they will try to help in whichever ways they can to make it happen,” said Suu Kyi.

Regarding economic sanctions on Burma, she said most of the countries have suspended them but that the lifting of all existing economic sanctions will only be based upon democratic reforms.

Suu Kyi also put emphasis on educational reform, saying that it is important for the government to take the necessary measures, especially to increase spending on education.

“We need to spend a lot on education,” she said. “We shouldn’t say, ‘Help us!’ to other countries while spending so little on it. We need to increase our budget for education.”

When asked about the media law that the Ministry of Information is scheduled to submit at the coming parliamentary meetings, the opposition leader said the drafting process should be more transparent and that people should know who was involved in it.

“People in the media know best whether we are really encouraging press freedom in our country, and to what extent it has been controlled,” said Suu Kyi.

With regard to amendments to the existing Constitution, Suu Kyi said she will cooperate with the military representatives in Parliament.

“We can’t remove them [military MPs] and so we have to cooperate with them. Like I have already said, I am not going into Parliament with the intention of getting rid of them, but to cooperate with them. We can only amend the Constitution if we work together,” she said.

The press conference also covered the issue of recent sectarian violence in western Arakan State, which has resulted in an unknown number of casualties and tens of thousands made homeless.

Suu Kyi told reporters that it takes time to settle disputes between groups that have differences in language and culture. In order to deal with such issues, the rule of law must first be emphasized.

‘We also have to look at whether our citizenship law meets international standards,” she said.