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23 May 2024

Suu Kyi says Myanmar on 'verge of breakthrough'


Myanmar's opposition icon Aung San Suu Kyi said Wednesday that her country was "on the verge of a breakthrough to democracy" as she prepares to seek a seat in parliament following reforms.

The Nobel Peace Prize winner, who spent most of the past two decades under house arrest before being freed in 2010, voiced appreciation for overseas support as she accepted an award presented by the New York-based Asia Society.

"Burma is on the verge of a breakthrough to democracy -- we have not yet made the breakthrough; we are on the verge of making such a breakthrough," Suu Kyi said in a taped message to an awards dinner, using Myanmar's former name.

"We look to friends like you to help us along this difficult path, which might be full of difficulties, but which we shall be able to negotiate with your help, and the help of other friends like you," she said.

"I look forward to a time when Burma will expand the borders of its democratization, and when we will be able to have frequent and meaningful exchanges with friends in other parts of the world," she said.

Suu Kyi plans to contest by-elections on April 1 in a constituency near Yangon, a major step that could see the long-detained leader participating as a lawmaker in parliament.

Myanmar's long-ruling generals ceded power last year to a nominally civilian government, in a move that was initially met with wide cynicism from Suu Kyi's supporters and the United States, where she is widely admired.

But new President Thein Sein, a former general, has surprised observers by launching talks with Suu Kyi and ethnic minority leaders as well as freezing work on an unpopular dam supported by powerful neighbor China.

The opposition and the United States have sought further reforms, including the release of political prisoners.