Vikram Nehru: On Aung San Suu Kyi’s ‘unfortunate’ message

Aung San Suu Kyi. Photo by: The Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs / CC BY-ND

Aung San Suu Kyi has been urging donors and foreign investors to be cautiously optimistic about re-engaging with Myanmar. To Vikram Nehru of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, it signals that the Nobel Peace Prize laureate needs to evolve.

Although not entirely wrong, Suu Kyi’s message is “unfortunate” and could have been more “nuanced,” Nehru says. She could have, for instance, called for investments in her country’s manufacturing industry and tourism, he adds.

Suu Kyi has appealed for healthy skepticism from the international community when in comes to Myanmar’s ongoing reform process. She did recently recognize the country’s need for foreign aid and investment in a speech before the annual International Labor Organization conference in Switzerland.

Nehru argues that while Suu Kyi is correct in highlighting the need for establishing rule of law in Myanmar, “the more immediate problems facing the poor must be addressed.” He adds that Suu Kyi “will have to evolve” if Myanmar’s political and economic transition is to be successful.

“Suu Kyi will have to represent the people’s aspirations as opposition leader in parliament and support [Myanmar’s] interests abroad,” Nehru writes in an opinion piece in The Wall Street Journal. “And that might mean encouraging foreign investors even if the country’s economic policies and institutions are badly in need of overhaul.”

Nehru also outlines a to-do-list for the Suu Kyi’s National Democratic League party: “Flesh out and test its stance on human rights, tensions in ethnic minority areas, relations with the military and the appropriate role of the private sector, foreign investors and the government in the development process.”

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About the author

  • Ivy Mungcal

    As former senior staff writer, Ivy Mungcal contributed to several Devex publications. Her focus is on breaking news, and in particular on global aid reform and trends in the United States, Europe, the Caribbean, and the Americas. Before joining Devex in 2009, Ivy produced specialized content for U.S. and U.K.-based business websites.