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NEWS UPDATES Asean Affairs    26 May 2012

Suu Kyi to speak at WEF in Bangkok

25 May 2012

Myanmar President Thein Sein will go ahead with a state visit to Thailand next week, but may skip the World Economic Forum (WEF) on East Asia, where democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi is also billed to appear.

People familiar with government thinking said the President's office was taken aback upon hearing that Suu Kyi was to speak at the WEF, which he was scheduled to address on June 1.

"It was obvious that she would be a magnet for the international media, upstaging the President," said a source close to the government, who asked not to be identified.

News that Suu Kyi would travel to Thailand for her first trip abroad in 24 years, and that she will attend the WEF from May 30 to June 1, appeared late on Wednesday night.

It was confirmed yesterday by her party, the National League for Democracy (NLD).

But sources said another minister may represent the President at the WEF - and make an announcement welcoming participants to the 2013 WEF East Asia, to be held in Yangon next year.

The concern over occupying the same forum highlights the need for the international community to finesse its relationship with both the NLD leader and the President, the source said.

Analysts said the transition process in Myanmar is still fragile. Having an active opposition party with the charismatic Suu Kyi sitting in parliament is a new phenomenon for the military, which still has considerable power.

So far, the army has allowed the liberalisation process to continue. It is designed to open up the country to more investment and restore some freedoms, ending Myanmar's pariah status.

And while the liberals hurry through reforms, the government is also being increasingly challenged to respond to the needs of citizens. Citizens are also testing the boundaries of their new freedom. In recent days there have been peaceful candlelight protests in Yangon, Mandalay and other towns over prolonged power cuts.

Suu Kyi's new role as opposition leader is being closely watched, not least because her position on key issues carries considerable weight in policymaking circles in Western countries.

In June, she will visit Europe, starting in Geneva with a speech on June 14 at the International Labour Organisation, which is poised to lift a 1999 resolution finding that Myanmar was not cooperating on curbing forced labour.

That will be the signal to the European Union to reinstate a system of preferences which will open up its market to more goods from Myanmar - potentially catalysing job creation in Myanmar.

Suu Kyi will then visit Norway, where she will formally receive the Nobel Peace Prize that she won nearly 21 years ago, when she was in detention in Myanmar. That will be followed by a visit to Britain, where she will address both Houses of Parliament.

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This year in Thailand-what next?

AseanAffairs   04 January 2011
By David Swartzentruber      

It is commonplace in journalism to write two types of articles at the transition point between the year that has passed and the New Year. As this writer qualifies as an “old hand” in observing Thailand with a track record dating back 14 years, it is time take a shot at what may unfold in Thailand in 2011.

The first issue that can’t be answered is the health of Thailand’s beloved King Bhumibol, who is now 83 years old. He is the world's longest reigning monarch, but elaborate birthday celebrations in December failed to mask concern over his health. More


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