Speaking at a press conference in Rangoon on Wednesday, Burmese pro-democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi defended herself against criticism directed at her for comments she made at the World Economic Forum in Bangkok last week.
“I had given my views very openly at the forum and I heard that some were unhappy about that,” she said. “I gave my frank opinion so that people can make a correct assessment of the country.”
Suu Kyi had been criticized at home and in the state press for apparently warning the international community about investing in Burma at a time when the Burmese government is courting many foreign businessmen and opening the country for trade. Speaking at the Bangkok forum, she cautioned investors against “reckless optimism,” and called on the international community to exercise “healthy skepticism” in its approach to dealing with the Burmese authorities.
Speaking at the Rangoon headquarters of her party, the National League for Democracy, she said that there was no reason for President Thein Sein to be irritated by anything that took place on her six-day trip to Thailand.
She said that, on the whole, her trip to Thailand had been successful and satisfactory. She went on to thank the people of Thailand and the Thai authorities for taking care of her.
Suu Kyi also addressed the relationship between Thailand and Burma, saying that the gap between the two countries must be narrowed if relations are to be improved.
“If we can narrow the economic, social and political gaps, then the relationship between Thailand and Burma will be strong. But this does not mean increased competition, it means improved cooperation,” she said.
“I was greatly encouraged to hear from the Thai authorities that they will not be forcibly sending refugees and migrant workers back to Burma,” she said. “I was also encouraged to hear about the significant contribution that Burmese workers make to the Thai economy.
“It is our duty to create improved social, economic and political conditions that enable the migrant workers and refugees to return home,” she said.
Meanwhile, The Bangkok Post on Wednesday quoted Thailand’s Foreign Minister Surapong Tovichakchaikul as saying that Suu Kyi had not been permitted to involve herself in any political activities on Thai soil during her visit, and that she had been restricted to focusing on humanitarian issues during her trip to the Thai-Burmese border on Saturday.
The Thai government’s restrictions included the cancellation of her proposed meeting with ethnic leaders, The Bangkok Post said.
Surapong was reportedly called by his Burmese counterpart, Wunna Maung Lwin, and told that President Thein Sein’s absence from the World Economic Forum was not related to Suu Kyi’s visit, and that he appreciated that Thailand had done its best to accommodate her.
However, Deputy Chief of Foreign Affairs for the Kachin Independence Organization, Col. James Lum Dau, said, “The Thai government was afraid that Aung San Suu Kyi’s trip would upset the Burmese government. That is the main reason she was restricted from meeting with representatives of ethnic groups.”