French President Francois Hollande told Burma’s opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi upon here arrival on Tuesday that France supported “all actors” in Burma’s rapid democratic reforms, and Suu Kyi repeated her European tour themes that development cannot be substituted for democracy.
At a joint press conference, she said, “We need democracy as well as economic development. Development cannot be a substitute for democracy, it must be used to strengthen the foundations of democracy.” She said “financial transparency in the extractive industries and in fact business in general” were essential to investment in Burma, a country that has lived for decades under military rule with little focus on transparency and development.
She said more efforts are needed to convince officials in the newly elected ruling government of the need for democratic reforms. She said Burmese President Thein Sein seemed sincere in his rapid moves to institute reforms in the financial system, land ownership, banking, foreign investment, workers’ rights, health and to bring peace and national reconciliation to the Burmese people.
“I believe that the president is sincere, and I believe that he is honest, but I cannot speak for everybody in the government,” she said. “I don't think we can say it [reform] is irreversible until such time as the army is committed to that.” Hollande said Thein Sein is welcome to visit France if he wishes.
Asked about the recent sectarian violence in Burma that has claimed at least 60 lives, Suu kyi said the rule of law was needed in Burma. “We will need time to bring true harmony between the Muslims and the Buddhists,” she said, adding that citizenship laws must be “in line with international standards.”
The minority Rohingya population, who are Muslim, are denied citizenship rights in Burma. Up to 90,000 refugees have been displaced in the unrest, according to some unofficial sources in the area.
Suu Kyi, who is susceptible to air sickness, arrived in Paris on Tuesday by train from Britain.
“It's a very great joy... Seeing her here, free, it's historic,” Pierre Martial, the head of a French Aung San Suu Kyi association, told Agence France Presse at the Paris train station. “She made horror and dictatorship retreat through non-violence; it is very rare,” he said.
During her four-day visit, Suu Kyi will also meet Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius and other top political leaders, as well as members of the local Myanmar community, supporters in human rights groups and speak to students at The University of Sorbonne.
Suu Kyi launched her European tour on June 13 in Switzerland, where she spoke to the International Labour Organization before flying to Oslo, where she received the Nobel Peace Prize award, which had been given to her 21 years ago while she was under house arrest in Burma. She then flew to Dublin to receive an award from Amnesty International and from there to Britain, her home for years, where she received an honorary degree at Oxford University and later addressed a joint session of Parliament. Her reception across Europe has been compared with that given to a head of state.
The leader of the National League for Democracy in Burma, Suu Kyi won a parliament seat this year in April. She will attend her first parliamentary session in July.