June 01, 2012
Burmese opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi has delivered a speech in Bangkok saying that investment is welcome in her country, as long as it does not lead to corruption.
Speaking at the World Economic Forum on East Asia in Bangkok, in her first trip abroad for 24 years, Ms Suu Kyi called for commitment from all in Burma's reform process, including the military.
Ms Suu Kyi received a standing ovation from delegates to the forum when she entered the packed conference hall.
The Nobel laureate warned China and the United States against turning Burma into a "battling ground" as they vie for influence over the strategically important nation.
"A lot of people are talking now about what the position of Burma will be now that we are starting to engage ... more with the United States and how it will affect our relations with China," she said.
"I'm always very concerned when Burma is seen as a battling ground for the United States and China.
"It should not be so, it should be an area of harmony for those two big countries."
The resource-rich, but poor country has a history of engagement with Beijing, but Washington has recently sought closer ties with the quasi-civilian government, easing some sanctions to reward the end of military rule.
Critics accuse China of extracting natural resources at the expense of Burma's impoverished people, and helping to shield the country's former junta from the full weight of international opprobrium at the United Nations Security Council.
Ms Suu Kyi said Burma and China had been "good neighbours" for many years.
Also in the speech, Ms Suu Kyi appealed to investors to think not just of the money they would make, but of how they could best help the Burmese people.
She underlined the need to eradicate corruption and inequality.
"We do not want more investment to mean more possibilities for corruption. We do not want investment to mean greater inequality. We want investment to mean, quite simply, jobs. As many jobs as possible," she said.
She said ordinary Burmese need access to basic secondary education to participate in and gain from reform.
Ms Suu Kyi also said laughingly that the bright lights of Bangkok struck her as she was flying in after 24 years in Burma, because her own country is in dire need of an an energy policy.
The US has sought to build links with Burmese president Thein Sein's government, easing some investment sanctions and naming its first ambassador to the country in 22 years, to reward steps towards democracy including by-elections in April.
Washington has vowed to keep broad sanctions against Burma as an "insurance policy" against "backsliding" on democratic reforms even as it seeks to open up certain types of investment.
Burma occupies a key strategic position between neighbours China and India and its gas, oil, water, wood and precious stones are widely coveted by foreign investors.
Indian prime minister Manmohan Singh visited the country this week, signing trade deals and meeting Ms Suu Kyi, as part of efforts to boost links and contest the influence of regional rival China.
Later this month Ms Suu Kyi will go the UK and Norway to collect her Nobel Peace Prize.