28 Sep 2012

Myanmar's president praises Suu Kyi at UN

9:38 pm on 28 September 2012

Myanmar's reformist president has praised opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi in a speech at the United Nations.

Thein Sein on Thursday referred to Ms Suu Kyi for the first time as a Nobel laureate, and congratulated her on the honours she recently received in the United States. She was detained for 15 years by the previous military government.

He said achieving stability and rule of law would prevent "any reversal" in reforms that are helping his Southeast Asian nation emerge from decades of authoritarianism, poverty and isolation.

In speeches in New York, President Thein Sein appealed for international support for sweeping political and economic changes in Myanmar and praised opposition leader and pro-democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi as a "good colleague" who would help complete the country's democratic transition, AFP reports.

"As long as there is political stability and rule of law, I don't think there will be any reversal," he told the Asia Society in New York.

He earlier told the UN General Assembly that changes implemented in his 18 months in office - the freeing of hundreds of political prisoners, fair by-elections, ending media censorship - have created "a new political culture of patience and dialogue", AFP reports.

The 67-year-old former general and former military junta member has emerged as the unlikely catalyst for a wave of reforms that were unthinkable a year ago in the former British colony.

But Mr Thein Sein also credited Ms Suu Kyi - the 1991 Nobel laureate whose whirlwind tour of the United States in many eyes upstaged the president - with playing a key role in the changes that have helped Myanmar improve its image.

"She has been a good colleague," he said.

On Wednesday, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told Mr Thein Sein the United States would take further steps to ease the US ban on imports from Myanmar, a move that would help his government draw investment and create jobs for the country's 60 million people.