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Burma’s opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi on Thursday told a European Union business forum that investors should not ignore the country’s political challenges as it heads towards crucial 2015 elections.
The veteran activist said constitutional amendment was imperative for the economic development of the nation, seen as a key regional developing market as it opens after decades of military rule.
“Anybody that encourages business or investment or any other activity in Burma while at the same time totally ignoring the need to amend the constitution is not being pragmatic,” she said, using the country’s former name. It is now officially known as Myanmar.
Suu Kyi also rejected suggestions that her party would slow economic progress if it came to power.
She was speaking at a forum on supporting Burma’s transition that was hosted by EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton.
“We believe in economic development rooted in social and political development of the country as a whole,” Suu Kyi said.
The current constitution, crafted under the former military regime, notably would block Suu Kyi from becoming president after 2015 parliamentary elections because it excludes anyone whose spouses or children are foreign nationals.
It also ensures that a quarter of the legislature is reserved for soldiers.
Suu Kyi also threw her weight behind calls for a federal system, a key concern of the country’s numerous ethnic minority groups.
“All of us want a federal union because that would ensure satisfaction and confidence in all our peoples,” she said.
The democracy champion has faced criticism at home for her apparent reluctance to address religious violence in the western state of Arakan [Rakhine] and clashes between the army and rebels in northern Kachin.
Burma has been beset by ethnic rebellions for decades. Tentative peace pacts have been signed with most armed groups but a nationwide ceasefire has so far remained elusive.
President Thein Sein, who took power in 2011, has won international plaudits and the removal of most Western sanctions for changes including Suu Kyi’s participation in parliament and the release of political prisoners.