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Burmese opposition icon Aung San Suu Kyi paid tribute Tuesday to past models of democratic transition in Eastern Europe, South Africa and Latin America as she wrapped up a two-week US tour.
But she said Burma has to develop its own form of democracy, and would probably not be like that in America, which is preparing for a presidential election only weeks away.
“It can’t be like America’s democracy because Burma is not America,” she told several thousands supporters gathered in Los Angeles for her last public appearance before she leaves for home Wednesday.
“Each country develops its own type of democracy, not something that should be imposed from above. I’ve always been against so called disciplined democracy, which has been advocated by the military regime.”
Suu Kyi, who spent 15 years under house arrest until her 2010 release, arrived in the US on 17 September for the landmark visit, which included a meeting with President Barack Obama in the White House.
The 67-year-old, who won the 1991 Nobel Peace Prize – although she only accepted it in person in June of this year – also met in Washington with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who visited Burma in December.
After meetings in Washington and New York, she also traveled to Kentucky and Indiana, as well as visiting Yale and Harvard universities, before a public event in San Francisco at the weekend.
During her visit to the US, Burma’s leader Thein Sein said in a BBC interview that he would accept Suu Kyi as president if elected, although he added he could not alone amend rules that bar her from power.
Suu Kyi was asked in Los Angeles what she would do if she were Burma’s president.
She dismissed the question by saying: “You should consider how the present president of Burma is handling the situation rather than asking me how I would handle it if I were the president of Burma. … Let’s be practical.”
Asked what democratic models Burma could look to, she said: “We have many, many lessons to learn from various places, not just the Asian countries like South Korea, Taiwan, Mongolia and Indonesia.”
She also cited “the Eastern European countries which made the transition from communist autocracy to democracy in the 1980s and 1990s, and the Latin American countries which made the transition from military governments.
“And we cannot of course forget South Africa, because although it wasn’t a military regime, it was certainly an authoritarian regime.”
In a nod to the current deep US political divide between Republicans led by Mitt Romney and the Democrats of Obama – battling to win re-election on November 6 – she stressed the need for compromise.
“Those of you who are familiar with American politics I’m sure understand the need for negotiated compromise,” she said with a smile.
Supporters gave her a rousing reception when she arrived at the LA Convention Center for Tuesday’s event, where security was tight – a small group of Muslims protested outside against “genocide” in Burma.
“She is very inspirational for us, we admire her,” said Corina Yang, 36, who is half Chinese and said it was the first time she had seen Suu Kyi.
Asked if she would make a good president, Yang said: “She’s a very straightforward person, and I really like her personality. She is a very honest person, so I really wish her one day to become president in our country.”