Aung San Suu Kyi Presses Campaign in Upper Burma

Posted February 24th, 2012 at 12:55 pm (UTC-5)
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Burmese democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi on Friday told thousands of flag-waving supporters in impoverished upper Burma that growth and prosperity will not be achieved without dialogue and unity among the country's ethnic groupings.

The Nobel laureate and public office hopeful addressed a rally in Kachin state, just weeks ahead of April 1 by-elections.

“The reason peace has not been achieved in Kachin state is due to lack of mutual confidence and mutual respect (between the Kachin people and the national government). And that is caused by the lack of openness and honesty.”

The rally was the second in as many days for Aung San Suu Kyi in the conflict-torn region, as she leads her National League for Democracy party's campaign to enter parliament.

“We are trying for the emergence of a system under which all nationalities will be entitled to an equal share of the common wealth owned by our country,” she said.

Hostilities between rebels in Kachin state and the Burmese army erupted anew last year, sending tens of thousands of locals fleeing into dozens of squalid makeshift refugee camps.

Aung San Suu Kyi spent much of the past two decades under house arrest, a prisoner of the country's former military junta. She gained her release in late 2010 as the military government prepared to cede power.

Her campaign for parliament comes as the new government presses forward with reforms, including promises to resettle all Kachin refugees.

The English-language Myanmar Times said this week that the national government is hoping to resettle the refugees before May, as authorities seek to persuade Western governments to lift harsh economic sanctions imposed on the former junta in the past decade. The United States and the European Union say further moves to ease those sanctions hinge on the conduct and transparency of the upcoming polls.

Meanwhile, local news reports show that stability remains elusive in the far-northern Kachin region, bordered by India and China. The Kachin News group reported Tuesday that government narcotics troops last week burned more that 1,500 kilograms of rice harvested by local growers. The report did not identify a motive for the burnings, but said such action is “a common tactic” used by the army to carry out collective punishment in conflict zones.