Myanmar's Suu Kyi says wants West to spur reform not reimpose sanctions

Myanmar's opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi speaks at the National League for Democracy Party's central comity meeting at a restaurant in Yangon on Dec 13, 2014. -- PHOTO: REUTERS
Myanmar's opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi speaks at the National League for Democracy Party's central comity meeting at a restaurant in Yangon on Dec 13, 2014. -- PHOTO: REUTERS

LONDON (REUTERS) - Myanmar's opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi on Friday called on the West to encourage her country's government to enter meaningful reform talks but told it not to reintroduce punitive sanctions even though democratic reforms were foundering.

Suu Kyi, who is ineligible to become president after planned parliamentary elections next year because of a technicality in the constitution, criticised the West for being too optimistic about change but said it could help by pushing for talks.

"That's a problem with the international community. They have not lost interest in Burma, they still want Burma to have a happy ending," she told BBC Radio 4's Today Programme, using the country's old name. "But they think that they'll get a happy ending simply by insisting that it is a happy ending and that's not how things happen."

Myanmar began its emergence from international pariah status in 2011 when military leaders launched reforms after nearly half a century in power and installed a quasi-civilian government, but the military still holds substantial sway.

U.S. President Barack Obama visited last month, saying the law that barred Suu Kyi from becoming president "doesn't make much sense".

Suu Kyi, who wants the constitution amended so she can run for president, said reforms were not going "too well" and that the government wasn't keen on genuine change with many people in the military continuing to believe they were the only ones who could hold the country together.

But she strongly rejected the idea of reintroducing European Union sanctions which were lifted in 2013 to reward Myanmar for progress in moving towards democracy. "I don't like going backwards," she said. "I like going forwards so I think rather than reintroducing old methods I think what would help greatly is if everybody seriously put their minds to doing whatever they can to encourage negotiations. That is the doorway to the future."