Democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi welcomed a new U.S. engagement with Myanmar's junta, but warned against “rose-coloured glasses” saying greater human rights and economic progress was still needed.
“There are a lot of people who say that now that the U.S. has decided to engage with the military regime, they have turned their back on us,” Ms. Suu Kyi told CNN after being freed from years of house arrest.
“I don't think of it like that. I think engagement is a good thing,” she said in comments broadcast by the U.S. television network on Friday.
But she cautioned: “I don't want them to go into engagement wearing rose-coloured glasses. I would want them to be practical about it.
The administration of U.S. President Barack Obama last year initiated a dialogue with Myanmar after concluding that the longstanding U.S. policy of isolating the military regime had failed to bear fruit.
The Nobel peace laureate, who has been locked away for 15 of the last 21 years, said U.S. officials should not be any under illusions about the real situation in her country, also known as Burma.
She stressed Washington must be “keeping your eyes open and alert and seeing what is really going on, and where engagement is leading to and what changes really need to be brought about”.
“I think we would like to have more respect for human rights in Burma than at present. We would like economic progress, but I think that has to be balanced by what I would think of as accountability,” she added.
Kurt Campbell, the Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian Affairs, has been leading the dialogue, but said in September that he had been disappointed with the results so far.
State Department officials said on Friday Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had sent a letter in recent days to Ms. Suu Kyi and would likely telephone her at some point.
“We believe there needs to be a strong, unified, firm message that there needs to be change in Burma,” said State Department spokesman Phillip Crowley.
He stressed that Washington places “a special responsibility on the government of Burma to guarantee” Ms. Suu Kyi's safety as she reconstitutes her party and meets with her advisors.
“Ultimately, Burma has to change,” said Mr. Crowley. “It has to have greater political space. It has to have a meaningful dialogue with other ethnic groups. That's the only way that Burma's going to be able to move away from its current isolation”. — AFP