Burma’s pro-democracy leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, says she is optimistic that a landmark visit by U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will advance reforms in the country.
Speaking via video conference from Burma Wednesday, Aung San Suu Kyi told a Washington research institution, the Council on Foreign Relations, she supports the United States’ efforts to engage more with the Burmese government.
“I think the United States has got it just right. Because although of course we discuss many things very often, they also engage with other groups in Burma. I am not the only democratic opposition party member with whom they discuss matters, the issue of engagement with the government. And, I think the government is quite comfortable with the close link that I have with the United States because they understand that I do not wish to use our friendly relation to the United States to in any way hurt the situation in Burma,” she said.
Aung San Suu Kyi says, however, that she has not changed her mind on economic and political sanctions placed on the country.
“The United States has made it quite clear what they expect the government of Burma to do, if sanctions are to be lifted and we certainly support this. We have always said that the best way to get sanctions lifted in Burma is to meet the conditions that were set by the Congress when sanctions were imposed, for example: the release of political prisoners, negotiations with democratic opposition, humanitarian access to conflict areas and so on. So, if these conditions are met, then the time will certainly have come for sanctions to be relaxed,” she said.
Aung San Suu Kyi says she plans to run in upcoming by-elections for the country’s new Senate. Aung San Suu Kyi’s National Democratic Party boycotted elections last year because of a law that prevented her from competing. The government recently repealed that law.
“I know that the majority of the people are very pleased that the NLD (National League for Democracy) has decided to re-register simply because that now they feel they have a party for whom they can vote. It’s that simple, it’s all that. But still, it’s very good they have this eagerness to support us. We have to get closer to the people again. Over the last two decades although we were officially a legal political party, we were never allowed to operate as one. There were so many restrictions on our work,” she said.
Aung San Suu Kyi’s NLD party won a landslide victory in Burma’s 1990 general election. However, she was under house arrest by the time the elections took place. Burma’s then-military government ignored the election results and placed her under a lengthy house arrest. She has spent 15 of the past 22 years in some form of detention.
Aung San Suu Kyi will meet with U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton Thursday in the main commercial city of Rangoon.