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Peace process is priority, not development: Suu Kyi

State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi pictured during a visit to an IDP camp outside of Myitkyina, the capital of Kachin State, on 28 March 2017. (Photo: Reuters)

Speaking on the opening day of the Forum for Myanmar’s Democratic Transition in the Burmese capital on Friday, State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi emphasised that economic development is not the government’s first priority; the peace process is.

“The peace process is our priority,” she said. “Some people may say that peace will only come about after we undertake a process of economic development, but I disagree. This country cannot develop without peace.”

Suu Kyi remarks came in her opening address at the Forum for Myanmar’s Democratic Transition, a three-day conference in Naypyidaw that has drawn together MPs, business leaders, international NGOs, human rights groups, academics and representatives of the Burmese military.

The state counsellor went on to remark that: “Things from the past should be forgotten” as the country moves forward.

“For us, the important thing is the present, and what we can do for democracy. The responsibility lies with the government, but the general public has a responsibility too.”

She added: “Some people are using their democratic rights in positive ways. I think people can see which people are doing this and which ones are misusing their democratic rights.”

Burma’s National Security Advisor Thaung Tun reiterated several of Suu Kyi’s remarks in his speech to delegates. He said that the country’s democratic transition is not the same as in other countries because the current government does not seek to avenge past wrongs; instead it has prioritised the process of national reconciliation.

“The government does not seek to avenge what happened in the past,” he said.

Former ambassador Thaung Tun was appointed into the newly created national security advisor role in January.

Another speaker on the opening day of the conference, which was organised by the Ministry of Information, was Than Myint Oo, the founder of Yangon Heritage Trust. He said that Burma’s democratic transition would take ten or 20 years. “Nevertheless,” he said, “Myanmar doesn’t need to copy any democratic blueprints from other experienced countries to succeed.”

The forum reconvenes tomorrow.