WASHINGTON – Myanmar opposition leader and former political prisoner Aung San Suu Kyi called Wednesday for an easing of U.S. sanctions on her country and targeted investment to help Myanmar shed its pariah past and crushing poverty.
In an interview with Washington Post editors and reporters, the Nobel laureate expressed no bitterness toward the nations military regime that held her under house arrest for 15 years. She said her goal as an activist and politician is to promote lasting political reconciliation.
She said it is time to further ease economic sanctions on Myanmar in recognition of its political transformation over the past several years and added that the Myanmar people can now take responsibility for their country.
Suu Kyi had previously urged the United States to go slow in lifting sanctions and embracing the revamped Myanmar government, which leaves former and current military figures in prominent positions.
The United States has normalized diplomatic relations with Myanmar and allowed U.S. companies to resume investing there. Investment should focus on relieving the countrys pervasive poverty and improving basic services such as roads, Suu Kyi said.
The 17-day visit is the human rights advocates first to the United States since her release from house arrest in 2010.
Her release, and her election to Myanmars parliament this year, helped persuade the Obama administration to loosen economic and political restrictions imposed in response to nearly 50 years of repressive military rule.
The democratic gains are limited – and come with strings attached – but Suu Kyi said she is willing to give the government time to make further reforms. Likewise, she said she wants to afford the government leeway to address several religious and ethnic rights disputes.
Suu Kyis U.S. visit will overlap that of Myanmars reform-minded president, Thein Sein, with whom she cooperates.
The president, a member of the former ruling junta, will attend the annual gathering of world leaders at the U.N. General Assembly in New York next week. He is expected to meet with Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and other U.S. officials there.
Sanctions were helpful in steering the regime toward reform and in focusing outside attention on Myanmar, but in many cases their usefulness has run its course, Suu Kyi said.
She was not specific about which sanctions should remain for now. She said she understands the concern of some of her longtime backers outside Myanmar that lifting sanctions too soon would reduce leverage on the regime to open up further.
She stepped carefully around the question of whether regime figures should face prosecution for atrocities and human rights abuses committed before the country began to open up. She said solutions should be restorative, rather than retributive.