Myanmar's Suu Kyi cautions on 'reckless optimism'

    Just Watched

    Suu Kyi's first world economic speech

Suu Kyi's first world economic speech 05:07

Story highlights

  • Aung San Suu Kyi addresses World Economic Forum in Bangkok
  • Pro-democracy campaigner warns against 'reckless optimism' over Myanmar's reforms
  • Suu Kyi is in Thailand on her first foreign trip abroad in 24 years
  • She was elected to Parliament in April less than two years after her release from house arrest

From her seat on the stage at the World Economic Forum, Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi told a packed room what she was thinking as her plane prepared to land in Thailand for her first foreign trip in 24 years.

The Nobel laureate said she was sitting in the cockpit at the invitation of the pilot and was "completely fascinated" by the shimmering lights of Bangkok on the ground below.

"I thought, 30 years ago, the scene that met my eyes on landing in Bangkok would not have been very different from what would have met my eyes on landing in Rangoon. But now the difference is considerable," she said.

On leaving Myanmar three days ago for an historic trip to Thailand, Suu Kyi said locals were holding candlelight protests across the country against electricity cuts "that have been plaguing us for a month or so."

Of seeing the lights of Bangkok, Suu Kyi paused, smiled and said, "I have to say very frankly that what went through my mind is that 'we need an energy policy'."

    Just Watched

    Refugees flock to see Aung San Suu Kyi

Refugees flock to see Aung San Suu Kyi 02:19

    Just Watched

    Burmese migrants mob Suu Kyi in Thailand

Burmese migrants mob Suu Kyi in Thailand 04:26

    Just Watched

    Workers welcome Suu Kyi as 'savior'

Workers welcome Suu Kyi as 'savior' 02:59

    Just Watched

    Suu Kyi begins historic overseas trip

Suu Kyi begins historic overseas trip 01:53

    Just Watched

    Aung San Suu Kyi takes oath of office

Aung San Suu Kyi takes oath of office 04:48

A ripple of laughter and applause ran through the audience in recognition of Suu Kyi's enduring commitment to change in a country ruled for 50 years by a military junta. For many of those years, she was held under house arrest for daring to call for reforms.

During that time, Myanmar's moribund economy forced millions to leave the country in search of work in neighboring countries. Human rights groups estimate there are around three million Burmese migrants in Thailand alone.

    Burmese migrants dream of return home

    Suu Kyi, the founder of Myanmar's National League for Democracy party, has received a celebrity's welcome on her first foreign trip since winning a seat in Parliament in April. Her ability to leave Myanmar safe in the knowledge she can return marks another step forward for a government which in the past two years has made a number of surprising concessions.

    In the run-up to the first free and fair elections in decades, opposition parties were allowed to campaign. Suu Kyi was even given a platform on state television and radio.

    In the months before, the government pardoned hundreds of political prisoners, secured a ceasefire with Karen rebels and agreed to negotiate with other ethnic rebel groups. The concessions prompted many Western governments to review their long-standing economic sanctions against the country.

    However, despite all the changes, Suu Kyi has warned against what she called "reckless optimism" about the country's current pace of reform. "Optimism is good but it should be cautious optimism. I have come across reckless optimism. A little bit of healthy skepticism is in order," she said.

    Suu Kyi said that the priorities for the country were basic education and the rule of law. "We need the kind of education that will allow people to make a decent living for themselves."

    The NLD leader said Myanmar was not short of good laws, but that the country lacked a "clean and independent judicial system" to uphold them. She urged potential investors to keep that in mind so that any money plowed into the country aided, not hindered, its progress.

    "We do not want investment to mean more possibilities for corruption," she said. "We do not want investment to mean greater inequality. And we do not want investment to mean greater privileges for those already privileged."

    Suu Kyi's visit to Bangkok comes ahead of a longer trip to Europe in June during which she will make a series of key addresses, including the acceptance speech for the Nobel Peace Prize that she was prevented from collecting in 1991 because she was in detention.

        Inside Myanmar

      • Pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi has spent much of the last 20 years under house arrest.

        Aung San Suu Kyi's rise to Myanmar's parliament caps a remarkable turn around for the pro-democracy campaigner, who was kept under house arrest for 15 years.
      • Myanmar democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi smiles as she attend the 21st World Economic Forum on East Asia in bangkok on June 1, 2012.

        Aung Sun Suu Kyi tells WEF delegates in Thailand some healthy skepticism is needed when it comes to the country's recent reforms.
      • Supporters of Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi cheer outside the Myanmar migrant workers community center following her visit in Samut Sakhon on the outskirts of Bangkok on May 30, 2012.

        By the time we arrived, a couple of hours before Suu Kyi was due, the streets were already thick with thousands of Burmese waiting to see her.
      • After declaring victory, Aung San Suu Kyi told her cheering supporters that it wasn't her victory, but their own.

        Two years ago, Myanmar's leaders were doing all they could to silence Aung San Suu Kyi. Now they're poised to welcome her into parliament.
      • A Buddhist monk speaks to the crowd of supporters as they gather in downtown Yangon, 25 September 2007.

        From a bloodless coup in 1962 to Aung San Suu Kyi's win in 2012 elections, explore CNN's timeline of recent events in Myanmar.
      • pkg rivers myanmar game changer_00000429

        British Prime Minister David Cameron became the first western leader in decades to visit Myanmar, where he met pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi.
      • Supporters cheer at a rally organized by the ruling Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) on March 28 in Yuzana.

        If Sunday's by-election in Myanmar is deemed to be free and fair, it will cap off a startling about-turn by the former military men currently running the country.
      • hancocks myanmar monks view_00003904

        Five years after a brutal crackdown in Myanmar, CNN's Paula Hancocks asks monks if they trust the current changes.
      • myanmar china border

        While Hillary Clinton's historic visit to Myanmar might well unnerve China, analysts believe the relationship between the two Asian neighbors remains strong.