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Burma's Suu Kyi challenges West and urges Canada to curb investments

Published by MAC on 2002-05-20

Burma's Suu Kyi challenges West and urges Canada to curb investments

The Toronto Star, 20 May, 2002

Martin Regg Cohn, Asia Bureau

RANGOON - Discipline, struggle, perseverance and, above all, duty. These are the values that have ruled the life of newly released democracy activist Aung San Suu Kyi.

And these are the values that she says the people of Burma must embrace if they are to reclaim their heritage. "Things have to be different, we must make things different - that's how we go about it," she says.

In an interview just two weeks after being freed from house arrest, the woman who is viewed as the mother of her country has issued a challenge, not only to the people of this South Asian country but to the nations, including Canada, that have co-operated with Burma's military dictatorship.

Unlike in the United States, which has banned new investment in Burma and whose companies have largely pulled back, Canadian investors have conspicuously ignored her calls for economic sanctions against the rogue regime.

Early last year, Canada became the second-biggest foreign investor in Burma, thanks to the activities of Ivanhoe Mines Ltd., which runs the country's biggest copper mine in a joint venture with the military.

Ivanhoe issued a news release two week ago saying it is a "conscientious, judicious enterprise (that) delivers practical, wide-ranging benefits to people, while at the same time facilitating the relief of human suffering." But Suu Kyi says foreign capital merely lines the pockets of the generals.

"It doesn't come as a surprise to us; we've gotten used to some pretty strange things," she says of Ivanhoe's boasts. "What's the benefit in it for the ordinary Burmese?"

She appeals to Canadians to join other Western nations in a more concerted attempt to pressure the government. "It's much more effective than if they just do their own thing. We have not yet achieved democracy, so we still have a lot of work to do and I'd like them (Canadians) to be aware of that."

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