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June 15, 2012

Suu Kyi seeks 'democracy-friendly' growth

Activist and lawmaker Aung San Suu Kyi of Myanmar. (UPI Photo)

GENEVA, Switzerland (UPI) -- Activist and lawmaker Aung San Suu Kyi of Myanmar called Thursday for investment in her country that would foster political reform and democracy.

Suu Kyi, who spent much of the last 24 years under house arrest, made the remarks in a speech to the U.N. International Labor Organization in Geneva, Switzerland, as she began a five European visit, The New York Times reported.

"What I would like to see for our country is democracy-friendly development growth," she said. "I would like to call for aid and investment that will strengthen the democratization process by promoting social and economic progress that is beneficial to political reform."

Suu Kyi said she preferred investment in tourism, development of financial services and infrastructure, especially telecommunications. She stressed the need for jobs for unemployed youth in her country.

"Problems related to drink and drug abuse and vagrancy abound as restless, directionless youth agonize over the fruitlessness of their existence," Suu Kyi said.

The ILO voted to restore Myanmar, formerly known as Burma, to full membership as a nod to the reforms instituted by President Thein Sein's government, which includes a commitment to end forced labor by 2015.

At a news conference after the speech, Suu Kyi expressed concern about ethnic violence in which more than 20 people have died in recent days in Myanmar's Rakhine State.

She said the country needs "very clear and precise laws with regard to citizenship."

Speaking of the conflict, she said: "The most important lesson we need to draw from it is the need for the rule of law. Without the rule of law, such communal strife will only continue."

Meanwhile, the Times reported, the U.N. special rapporteur for human rights in Myanmar, Tomas Quintana, warned "the underlying tensions that stem from discrimination against ethnic minorities pose a threat to Myanmar's democratic transition and stability."

Suu Kyi's 17-day tour marks a milestone in her progress from political activist under house arrest to parliamentary leader trying to help end decades of repression and isolation.

"I think the international community is working very hard to bring our country into it and it is up to our country to respond in that way as well," she said when she arrived in Geneva Wednesday.

While in Switzerland, Suu Kyi will meet President Eveline Widmer-Sclumpf in Bern.

In Oslo, Suu Kyi will deliver her acceptance speech Saturday for the Nobel Peace Prize she was awarded in 1991 but could not collect then out of fear she would not be allowed to return to her country.

The Times said her itinerary includes visits to Ireland, Britain and France, as well as a family celebration of her 67th birthday. Next week, she will address both houses of Parliament in London and meet French President Francois Hollande.

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