Aung San Suu Kyi warned the world against expecting too much from the pace of democratic reforms in her native Myanmar (also known as Burma).
In a much-anticipated speech at the World Economic Forum in Bangkok, Thailand, the newly-elected parliamentarian said there was already too much “reckless optimism” over a number of moderate reforms that the nominally civilian government of Myanmar has enacted over the past two years.
She cited, among other things, that the Burmese parliament was far from a democratic body, that there existed no independent judiciary in the country and that the military (which ruled the country with an iron hand for fifty years) still wields a significant amount of power and may not embrace further democratic reforms.
However, she urged foreign investors to invest in Myanmar in order to provide jobs for the young and alleviate high rates of poverty. But even that sentiment was tempered by her fears that an influx of foreign money might serve to exacerbate inequality and spawn more corruption.
“Investors in Burma, please be warned – even the best investment law would be of no use whatsoever if there is no court clean enough and independent enough to be able to administer these laws justly, she said.
Good laws already exist in Burma, but we do not have a clean and independent judicial system. Unless we have such a system it is no use having the best laws in the world.
She added: ''I am here not to tell you what to do but to tell you what we need. There is a great need for basic skills. We need vocational training much more than higher education. We want [foreign investments] to mean jobs. Please think deeply for us. We don't want investment to mean further corruption. and greater inequality.
Suu Kyi also said she hopes for the day when Burma becomes “part of that more prosperous, peaceful world.”
The Burmese icon has dominated the summit with the sheer weight of her star power. Prior to her formal appearance at the summit, she made a splash by ditching her luxurious Bangkok hotel in order to meet with poor Burmese migrants in a humble suburb south of the gleaming city and promised to help them.
Next month, Suu Kyi will voyage to Europe, where she is expected to make a speech in Geneva and also journey to Oslo, Norway, to formally accept the Nobel Peace Prize she was awarded in absentia in 1991. She is also expected to make stops in Paris, Ireland and the UK, where she has family members.