Hamish McDonald, Rangoon June 07, 2012
Burma's revered democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi has urged Australia to see that its businesses invest and trade in ways that benefit local people.
In a 45-minute meeting with Foreign Affairs Minister Bob Carr, in the house where she was held captive by the former military regime for two decades, Ms Suu Kyi also said sanctions should be suspended, not abolished, to encourage further political reforms.
"I am in favour of suspended sanctions because that makes it quite clear that good behaviour will be rewarded and if the good behaviour is not maintained the rewards can also be taken away," she told reports after the meeting.
But change had to be driven inside Burma. "I believe that sanctions have had great effect politically - if they had not had such effect the government of Burma would not have been so eager to have them removed, "she said.
"So we are very appreciative of the political effectiveness of sanctions. But in the ultimate analysis we depend neither on sanctions nor on other external factors for real change in our country. We depend on ourselves."
Australia sharply cut the number of military leaders and associates on its sanctions list in April, after Ms Suu Kyi was elected to the National Assembly in by-elections regarded as free and fair.
Senator Carr said he would apply the test of benefit to the people to Australia trade and aid with Burma. "This is a wisdom which will apply to our dealings with this country," he said.
Ms Suu Kyi dismissed reports that her recent warning against "reckless optimism" in the gathering investment boom triggered by pulling of sanctions had caused friction with the government of President Thein Sein, a former general.
"It should not," she said. "I would not have thought that recklessness was good for anybody... I didn't say I was against optimism."
Senator Carr told Miss Suu Kyi "You are a hero to many in Australia" and invited her to visit as a guest of the government.
"Australia has been a sanctuary for many people from Australia and Australia is after all a part of our region, not as close as say Thailand, but nonetheless a neighbour, a good neighbour," Ms Suu Kyi replied.
She hoped to make the visit next year. "I am looking forward very much to the time when I will be able to visit Australia and see what our unusual neighbour is like," she said, adding: "I was brought up on The Kookaburra Sat in the Old Gum Tree so I feel I know a lot about Australia already."
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