After overseeing months of unprecedented reforms in her home country of Burma, Aung San Suu Kyi (hereafter abbreviated ASSK) went to Bangkok and spoke at the World Economic Forum on East Asia. Here are the highlights of her message to the leading members of the international community:
- The question of whether or not the breathtaking reforms have become irreversible in Burma/Myanmar remains the focus of policymakers and policy analysts - but this begs the fundamental question of what the nature of reforms are in Burma. ASSK defines reforms as improvements to the conditions of the Burmese peoples.
- There is the political aspect of the reforms, which has been the focus of the international community in the last few months - beyond releasing political prisoners and democratizing the electoral system, ASSK calls for national commitment so that all ethnic groups of the union can benefit from the changes. The friction between the ethnic groups are not unbridgeable.
- Paralleling the political process, ASSK noted that Burma must engage in more robust economic reforms. The opinions of the entrepreneurs in Burma are that the business climate has not significantly improved - ASSK points out that economic reforms are not held up by just fiscal and monetary measures but also by judicial and legislative reforms. Rule of law is to not only protect political activist, but also to regulate business practices. Key to achieving this will be to establish an independent judicial system to administer laws justly. And so far, reforms in the Burmese judicial system has been slow in coming.
- ASSK spoke about the critical mass of educated people (from Paul Collier) necessary to carry out changes in the country. By education ASSK refers to secondary education, not tertiary or doctoral. She believes that education will be fundamental to resolving unemployment among the youth and creating a citizenry capable of implementing the reforms. She hopes to focus on job creation and vocational training.
- According to ASSK, the biggest problem in Burma is the hopelessness born out of mass youth unemployment. Job creation therefore is both a practical necessity and one that will secure the long term well-being of the country.
- ASSK believes that the Burmese people on the ground are ready to adopt the democratic process and sees eradicating corruption and inequality as a chief assignment.
- Burma is not yet a fully fledged democracy, ASSK admits, and the reforms are still highly dependent on the commitment of the military (she calls for cautious optimism and healthy skepticism); nonetheless, it is the Burmese government's role to assist the people empower themselves by choosing their own means of self improvement. The state must simply be capable of providing the legal and technical assistance necessary.
- ASSK asks the ASEAN countries to express what they expect of Burma by the time the country takes the presidency of the organization in 2014.