Special attention to China ties: Suu Kyi

YANGON • Myanmar's Ms Aung San Suu Kyi has pledged to pay "special attention" to ties with China when her party takes office after its election triumph, and said foreign investments would need public support to help improve relations.

In an interview with China's state-run Xinhua news agency, the National League for Democracy leader said Myanmar had no enemies, but relations with neighbours were more sensitive than others and needed to be carefully handled.

China was Myanmar's lifeline for two decades when sanctions prevented most Western businesses and financial institutions from engaging with the country during military rule from 1962 to 2011.

But the stakes are now far higher for Beijing, with business competition heating up and the NLD's anticipated sweeping-out of the last remnants of the old military guard with which Chinese firms enjoyed a close bond. "Ties between neighbours are always more delicate than that between countries far apart," Ms Suu Kyi said. "We'll pay special attention to our relations in order to make them smooth, effective and clear."

Mistrust still lingers in Myanmar over China's involvement in its nationwide peace process.

Ms Suu Kyi said Myanmar's foreign policy was about balance and China and Myanmar could have a good friendship. "We maintain friendly ties with friends from far and near,"she said. "There's no reason establishing a friendship is impossible, if both parties are willing."

Complicating the business picture for China is the fact that its Myanmar investments have historically been unpopular, fuelling perceptions of graft, land grabs, shady deals with generals and the plunder of natural resources. Without mentioning China specifically, Ms Suu Kyi said it was vital for investors targeting Myanmar to win public confidence, and for the government to be transparent and welcome business that was in the country's interests.

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 19, 2015, with the headline 'Special attention to China ties: Suu Kyi'. Print Edition | Subscribe