GENEVA – Foreign investment must help — not hurt — Burma's goal of moving toward full democracy, opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi said Thursday as she welcomed efforts to reach out to her country as it emerges from decades of isolation under military rule.
The Nobel peace laureate said the exploitation of Burma's oil and gas riches was a particularly sensitive area and recent deals between the government and China are shrouded in secrecy. Western companies, too, have been eager to invest in the Southeast Asian nation as the sanctions it faced under military rule are gradually lifted.
"Any new investment that comes in because of the lifting or suspension of sanctions should add to the democratic process rather than subtract from it," Suu Kyi told reporters in Geneva, a day after landing in the Swiss city on her first visit to Europe in 24 years.
"I would like to see a sound, effective energy policy in Burma and this should be related to the kind of extractive investments that we invite in," she said, referring to her country by its name before the military dictatorship changed it to Burma in 1989.
Suu Kyi's two-week visit to Europe began in Geneva with a speech Thursday to the annual meeting of the International Labor Organization, whose campaign against slavery and child labor in Burma drew constant attention to the junta's exploitation of its people.
The ILO decided Wednesday to reward Burma for reforms undertaken so far, lifting restrictions on its participation in the organization's work that had been in place since 1999.
From Switzerland, Suu Kyi flies to Oslo, where on Saturday she will make a belated acceptance speech and accept the Nobel Peace Prize that was awarded to her 21 years earlier while she was detained by the military after leading a pro-democracy party to victory in Burma's 1990 election.
Asked by The Associated Press whether she could forgive the junta for ignoring the outcome of those elections and keeping her under house arrest for 15 of the next 22 years, the woman who is seen as an icon of the democracy movement took the high road.
"In some ways I don't think they really did anything to me," she said. "I do not think I have anything to forgive them for."