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Myanmar can 'learn from, not copy Singapore'

Ms Suu Kyi meeting Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong at the Istana yesterday. They discussed Myanmar's development, and PM Lee reaffirmed Singapore's support for Myanmar's chairmanship of Asean next year.
Ms Suu Kyi meeting Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong at the Istana yesterday. They discussed Myanmar's development, and PM Lee reaffirmed Singapore's support for Myanmar's chairmanship of Asean next year.ST PHOTO: KEVIN LIM

Nation's success worth studying, up to a point, says Suu Kyi on first visit

Even as she seeks to learn from Singapore's institutions, Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi says her country should not copy them wholesale.

Speaking at a press conference yesterday to wrap up her first visit here, the Nobel Peace Prize laureate was, by turns, complimentary and critical of her hosts.

Asked what she saw in Singapore that she might like to recreate in Myanmar, Ms Suu Kyi responded: "I don't think 'recreate' is the word, 'learn' yes."

On education, for instance, she said Singapore's system was very "workforce-oriented", going by a presentation given to her by the Education Ministry and her tour of the Institute of Technical Education College East.

"That made me think, what is work all about? What are human beings for? What are human lives about?

"So I want to learn a lot about the standards that Singapore has been able to achieve, but I wonder whether I don't want something more for our country."

She added: "I want to probe more into the successes of Singapore and to find out what we can achieve beyond that because I think the human capacity for progress is limitless and I am not just talking about material progress."

It was not the first time she raised what she saw as Singapore's focus on materialism at the press conference. In her opening remarks, she made reference to it.

"One gets used to thinking of Singapore as a financial, a commercial city, where people are more intent on business and money than human relations, but I have to say that I was pleasantly surprised that there is a lot of human warmth going around this place," she said.

"And I think this should be the best and greatest tie between our two countries, a bond that is based on caring for one another as people who belong to the same region and also as people who have been through the same experience," she said referring to both countries' struggle with colonialism.

She wants Myanmar to forge its own path and to add to the "diversity of the world", she says, adding Singapore could also learn from her country. "Perhaps Singapore could learn from us a more relaxed way of life. Perhaps warmer and closer family relationships. I think we have much to offer you, you come and find out."

Ms Suu Kyi also fielded questions about the situation in Myanmar. She said she would continue to push for a change to the Constituion that reserves seats in Parliament for the military and disqualifies her from becoming president.

Earlier yesterday, she called on Speaker of Parliament Halimah Yacob at Parliament House before heading to the Istana to call on President Tony Tan Keng Yam, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and Emeritus Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong.

Ms Suu Kyi discussed Myanmar's development with PM Lee and ESM Goh, said the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

PM Lee reaffirmed Singapore's support for Myanmar's chairmanship of Asean next year and also reiterated Singapore's commitment to supporting Myanmar's development.

Ms Suu Kyi leaves Singapore today.

jeremyau@sph.com.sg