Suu Kyi touched by warm S'pore welcome

Suu Kyi touched by warm S'pore welcome
Ms Suu Kyi: Myanmar’s democracy icon is unperturbed by China’s recent move to slash its investments in the country as she noted that it’s the quality rather than quantity of investments that counted. PHOTO: NURIA LING/THE STRAITS TIMES

Myanmar's democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi has said she is touched that Singapore - a financial and commercial hub obsessed with making money - still found time to give her a warm welcome over her four-day visit here.

The 68-year-old Myanmar opposition leader told reporters in a half-hour press conference on Monday: "I'm pleasantly surprised. There's a lot of human warmth."

She added that this should provide a strong anchor for fruitful ties between Singapore and her country.

Although this was her first trip here, Singapore did not feel alien to her. Instead, she said, she found much familiarity, especially in the faces of those who came to greet her; many were her countrymen and women who have come to Singapore to work or study.

Ms Suu Kyi, who during her stay met Singapore leaders and officials, including President Tony Tan and Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, said there was a lot Myanmar could learn from Singapore's economic management and education system.

But there were also some things Singapore could pick up from her country.

"Singapore can learn from us to be more relaxed," she said to laughter all around. "You can learn to have warmer and closer family relationships."

She said she recognised the importance of tailoring education to jobs - "we must be secure materially so that we can be free from want" - but she also believed that higher values such as love and loyalty should be inculcated in students.

Turning to her country's economy, she said she was unperturbed by China's recent move to slash its investments in Myanmar, because it was the quality rather than quantity of investments that counted.

Saying that investments should help to improve ties between countries, she noted that there had been a lot of resentment against the inflow of Chinese money into Myanmar, because it was seen as propping up her country's military rule.

Ms Suu Kyi said Chinese investors should be "more responsible and responsive" in pushing for better China-Myanmar ties.

On the "very serious" issue of rampant corruption in Myanmar, she said although her people were used to it, they still did not think it was an acceptable way of life.

"They don't like it," she said. That her people find it reprehensible will be "a big plus" when it comes to purging the problem from the country.

She has indicated she would take part in Myanmar's general election due in 2015, and that she would seek to change the country's constitution to pave the way for greater democracy.

On Monday, she said: "The sooner the change, the better."

She and her party, the National League for Democracy, aim to push for it to happen before 2015.

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