U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi pledged on Friday to work together to bring democracy in the country.
Wrapping up a historic three-day visit to Myanmar, Ms. Clinton held hands with Ms. Suu Kyi on the porch of the Nobel Peace Prize laureate’s lakeside home where she spent much of the past two decades under house arrest and thanked her for her “steadfast and very clear leadership.” The meeting was the second in as many days for the pair, after a private one-on-one dinner in Yangon on Thursday.
“You have been an inspiration but I know that you feel you are standing for all the people of your country who deserve the same rights and freedoms as people everywhere,” Ms. Clinton told Ms. Suu Kyi. “The people have been courageous and strong in the face of great difficulty over too many years. We want to see this country take its rightful place in the world.”
Ms. Suu Kyi has welcomed Ms. Clinton’s visit and tentatively embraced reforms enacted by Myanmar’s new civilian government. She thanked the secretary and U.S. President Barack Obama for their “careful and calibrated” engagement that has seen the U.S. take some modest steps to improve ties.
“We are happy with the way in which the United States is engaging with us,” she said. “It is through engagement that we hope to promote the process of democratization. Because of this engagement, I think our way ahead will be clearer and we will be able to trust that the process of democratization will go forward.”
As she did in the capital of Naypyidaw on Thursday, Clinton said more significant incentives will be offered but only if the government releases all political prisoners, ends brutal campaigns against ethnic minorities, respects the rule of law and improves human rights conditions.
Ms. Suu Kyi, whose National League for Democracy party won 1990 elections that were ignored by the then-military junta but now plans to run in upcoming parliamentary elections, endorsed that approach and called for the immediate release of all political prisoners and cease-fires to end the ethnic conflicts.
“If we move forward together I am confident there will be no turning back on the road to democracy,” Ms. Suu Kyi said, referring to her party, the government, the United States and other countries. “We are not on that road yet, but we hope to get there as soon as possible with the help and understanding of our friends.”
Ms. Suu Kyi, a heroine for pro-democracy advocates around the world, said Ms. Clinton’s visit, the first by a U.S. secretary of state to Myanmar in more than half a century, represented “a historical moment for both our countries.”
With U.S. assistance and pressure on the government, which is still backed by the military, she said she believed change was on the horizon for Myanmar.
“There have been times that Naypyidaw has weakened but I don’t think it has ever really broken,” she said.