Suu Kyi praises US engagement
Yangon - Pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu
Kyi welcomed on Friday US engagement with Myanmar saying she hoped it would set
her long-isolated country on the road to democracy.
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton held a
final meeting with Suu Kyi as she wrapped up a landmark visit to Myanmar which
saw the new civilian government pledge to forge ahead with political reforms
and re-engage with the world community.
Clinton and Suu Kyi - the Nobel laureate who
has come to symbolise the pro-democracy aspirations of Myanmar's people - held
a private dinner on Thursday and met again on Friday at Suu Kyi's lakeside
home, effectively her prison until she was released last November after years
"We are happy with the way in which the
US is engaging with us and it is through engagement that we hope to promote a
process of democratisation," said Suu Kyi, adding that Clinton's visit was
a "historical moment" for both countries.
The two women spoke together for about an
hour and a half. They later stood on a verandah, holding hands as they spoke to
"If we go forward together I'm confident
there will be no turning back from the road to democracy. We are not on that
road yet but we hope to get there as soon as possible with our friends,"
Suu Kyi said.
Clinton's trip follows a decision by US
President Barack Obama last month to open the door to expanded ties, saying he
saw "flickers of progress" in a country until recently seen as a
reclusive military dictatorship firmly aligned with China.
A better future
Suu Kyi said she welcomed more support for
Myanmar including World Bank and International Monetary Fund assessment
missions which she said would help the country figure out how to get its
economy on track.
She also called on the military-backed
government to do more to ensure the rule of law, which she said would prevent
the arrest of more political prisoners.
"We need all those who are still in
prison to be released and we need to ensure that no more are arrested,"
She said she would work with the new
government, the opposition and friendly countries including the US and China
for a better future for her country.
Clinton's trip - the first by a senior US
official in more than 50 years - represents an opportunity for both Myanmar and
the US, and both appear eager to press ahead with rapprochement.
Myanmar's new leadership hopes the US will
eventually see its way clear to ease or remove sanctions, a step which could
open the resource-rich but desperately poor country to more foreign trade and
investment and help it catch up to booming neighbours such as Thailand and
For Washington, improved ties with Myanmar
could underscore Obama's determination to up US engagement in Asia and balance
China's fast-growing economic, military and political influence.
Clinton praised Suu Kyi's "steadfast and
clear" leadership adding that she say "some ground for
encouragement" after her talks with government leaders in the capital,
Naypyitaw, on Thursday.
"You have been an inspiration,"
Clinton told Suu Kyi.
"But I know that you feel you are
standing for all the people of your country who deserve the same rights and
freedom as people everywhere."
"We want to see this country take its
rightful place in the world," Clinton said.
Clinton was later due to meet representatives
of ethnic minority groups, some of which remained locked in bloody conflict
with the army, as well as fledgling civil society organisations.
She will aim to reassure them that the US
outreach to Myanmar's government does not mean it will ease pressure on human
rights, political freedoms and rule of law in a country long a hallmark for
authoritarian military rule.
After her talks with President Thein Sein on
Thursday, Clinton and announced a package of modest steps to improve ties,
including US support for the International Monetary Fund and World Bank
assessment missions and expanded UN aid programs for the country's struggling
She also said the US would consider
reinstating a full ambassador in Myanmar and could eventually ease crippling
sanctions, but underscored that these future steps would depend on further
measurable progress in Myanmar's reform drive.
US officials said Clinton's visit was aimed
at bolstering reformers in the government, but said it was clear that some
powerful figures remained wary of reforms - throwing a question mark over
whether the changes can be sustained.
Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy will
contest coming by-elections for parliament - seen as the next key test of the
government's reform programme - and Suu Kyi herself has said she will stand for
election, another sign that she believes the changes under way are real.
Suu Kyi thanked Obama and praised the
"careful and calibrated" way in which the US was approaching
"This will be the beginning of a new
future for all of us provided we can maintin it and we hope to be able to do
so," she said.
Suu Kyi and Clinton embraced and were visibly
moved by their encounter.