San Francisco, September 28, 2012Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, Member of Parliament, Burma (also known as Myanmar) and Chairperson and General Secretary, National League of Democracy, made her first Bay Area public remarks at The Asia Foundation today. Daw Aung San Suu Kyi spoke to an exclusive and invitation-only audience of Bay Area political, civic, and business leaders; her remarks immediately followed a private meeting with David D. Arnold, president of The Asia Foundation, and the organization’s trustees.

The Asia Foundation also announced today a specialized book donation to establish a reference library for the Burmese Parliament Secretariat through its Books for Asia program. Foundation specialists in democratization and governance selected more than 600 volumes for the Parliament Library, including subscriptions to leading international journals and periodicals.

“Everyone has been speaking about how change has come to Burma, and I would like to say that it’s important that you make haste sensibly,” said Daw Aung San Suu Kyi. “To our friends who want to help us, it’s not enough to help a country which is emerging from dictatorship into democracy. It has to be helped in such a way that the foundations of a democratic society would be strengthened. This of course means empowering the people.”

“We are honored that Daw Aung San Suu Kyi chose to visit The Asia Foundation during her brief time in the Bay Area,” said Arnold. “The Foundation is a long-standing partner in Asia’s development, and we have consistently supported reform-minded leaders such as Suu Kyi in their efforts to strengthen democratic institutions and promote the rule of law. We are encouraged and excited by Burma’s remarkable transformation.”

Daw Aung San Suu Kyi on democratic reforms in Burma: “Democratization must be beneficial to all. This is the challenge:  a unified approach to the democratization process, a unified approach between the executive, legislature, and as yet almost non-existent judiciary, and the armed forces. We must work together to ensure that democratic institutions gather strength day to day. We are all impatient as we have waited 50 years for change to come.”

In order to ensure that Burma’s social, political, and economic reforms are durable, The Asia Foundation is undertaking an expanded program of development assistance.

Taking advantage of the Foundation’s extensive experience in other Asian countries, it will pursue an ambitious program of development activities, including: strengthening core institutions of democratic governance; enhancing the country’s foreign affairs capabilities, especially as Burma prepares to chair ASEAN in 2014; supporting the management of sub-national conflict; ensuring free, fair, and credible elections; ensuring access to information and informed public debate; and assisting with economic reforms for broad-based growth and increased opportunities for all.

Added Arnold: “The Asia Foundation maintained an office in Burma from 1954 to 1962; and since 2007 we have donated more than 80,000 books valued at $3.2 million. Our staff of international and local development experts has worked with virtually every major Asian country that has undergone a democratic transition, such as Mongolia, Indonesia, the Philippines and Korea. The Asia Foundation is well positioned to make an important contribution to the reform agenda introduced by President Thein Sein, and we look forward to partnering with the country’s emerging leadership.”

Watch the Foundation’s slideshow or full video from the event.

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