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By Stefan J. Bos, Chief International Correspondent BosNewsLife
BUDAPEST, HUNGARY (BosNewsLife)-- Burmese opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi has warned the United States and European Union not to be "over-optimistic" about Burma and said her Asian nation is not yet a democracy, despite sweeping reforms after decades of military rule.
The Nobel Peace Prize laureate spoke in Hungary's capital Budapest following meetings Friday, September 13, with government leaders during a tour through several former Communist countries in Central and Eastern Europe.
Suu Kyi told BosNewsLife and other reporters that nations who removed sanctions against Burma, also known as Myanmar, should realize the struggle for democracy is far from over amid political tensions and ethnic conflicts impacting Christians and other minorities.
"I think it is right to remove sanctions. But now it is more important than ever for those countries which have lifted sanctions, that is to say the United States and the EU and other countries, to look at the situation in Burma very objectively and not to be over optimistic," she said.
They should "recognize the fact that Burma is not yet a democracy until this constitution is changed," the opposition leader added.
The military-backed constitution bans anyone, including Suu Kyi, from leading the country because their spouses or children are foreign nationals.
Suu Kyi, who wants to participate in the 2015 presidential ballot, stressed that the next few months will determine whether Burma becomes truly democratic.
"If the government does not support moves to amend the constitution than I think we can [conclude] that the government is not interested in genuine democracy," Suu Kyi said.
A report, demanded by parliament on possible constitutional changes that is due by the end of the year, will "show how genuine the present government is about democratization", she explained.
Asked whether she was contemplating boycotting the elections, Suu Kyi said her Democratic League for Democracy "believes in keeping doors open for as long as possible" and is still negotiating with the current leadership on constitutional changes.
She made clear that the legal changes are also essential to end ethnic conflicts, including reported attacks by Burmese government forces against the mainly Christian Kachin community, which has killed several villagers in recent months and displaced as many as 100,000 civilians.
"Without rule of law we cannot achieve peace within the country. We cannot encourage different ethnic nationalities and different communities to sit down and talk to one another if they do not feel secure," Suu Kyi noted.
Suu Kyi, who spent 15 years under house arrest during Burma's military rule, said she had "no regrets", was "never afraid to die" and learned "how to live alone" before she was released following the controversial 2010 elections.
The 68-year-old gentle-mannered democracy icon became opposition parliamentarian under reforms introduced by the nominally civilian government of President Thein Sein, installed in 2011.
She arrived in Hungary from Poland and travels Saturday to the Czech Republic as part of a tour through the former Communist countries of Central and Eastern Europe.
While in Poland, her fellow Nobel Peace Prize laureate Lech Walesa, who in the 1980s led the protests that helped oust Poland's Communist authorities, told her to remain optimistic.
"We lost a number of battles before accomplishing success," said the former shipyard worker who became Poland's first democratically elected president. Burma was in "a similar situation" he noted. "They lose some battles, but in general they'll probably win the war," Walesa said.
"One of the things we've learned is that we can look to the Central European countries to support our efforts in a way in which perhaps the mature democracies can not do," noted Suu Kyi later in Budapest, where she also met Hungary's President János Áder and other officials.
"Not because they do not wish us well, but because they have not gone through the same experiences. The uprising for democracy in Burma started in 1988. After that, I like to think the Central European followed our example and started working toward democracy...But they went on much more quickly," Suu Kyi stressed.
Hungary, which shrugged of Communism in 1989, has offered computer programs to help Burma chair the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASIAN) meeting for the first time in 2014 and will provide 30 scholarships to Burmese students, said Deputy Foreign Minister Zsolt Németh.
To help with Burma's transition, five Burmese legislators are in Hungary to study the operations of parliament, the Constitutional Court, the State Audit Office and other institutions, officials said.
In Budapest, Suu Kyi was also asked by a reporter to imagine her visiting the violent city of Damascus and what she would say there to Syria's President Bashar al-Assad and to those fighting against his rule.
"I don't know President Assad personally, so I would hesitate to say how I would approach him. But speaking from my own convictions, I do not think violence really helps us to achieve the kind of nation that I like my people to live in," she said. "And if he wants his people to live in peace and harmony, than I hope he will do everything possible to avoid violence."
She spoke to media at Hungary's Foreign Ministry sitting next to László Tőkés, the Reformed bishop-turned Euro-parliamentarian from Romania, who played a key role in the 1989 Revolution against Romanian Communist ruler Nicolae Ceausescu.
Tőkés and government official Németh praised the Burmese opposition leader "as an inspiration" for her non-violent actions comparing her to Soviet-era dissidents and America's Martin Luther King or India's Mahatma Gandhi.
"Her style is unique in politics. We consider it important that the regime does not halt the reforms and that there will be free elections in 2015 and freedom for political prisoners," Németh said.
(BosNewsLife, the first truly independent news agency covering persecuted Christians, is 'Breaking the News for Compassionate Professionals' since 2004).
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