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Aung San Suu Kyi looks to Singapore as model

SINGAPORE--Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi cemented Singapore's role as a major economic partner and model for her country on a five-day trip to the island, taking home what she said were valuable lessons on education policy and anti-graft measures.

But her endorsement of the wealthy city-state came with a caveat — Myanmar could do without the materialistic and high-pressure society that has accompanied Singapore's decades-long transformation from tropical backwater to economic powerhouse.

“I want to learn a lot from the standards that Singapore has been able to achieve, but I wonder whether we don't want something more for our country,” the Nobel Peace laureate told reporters on Monday evening as she prepared to return home.

She added: “Perhaps Singapore could learn from us a more relaxed way of life.”

Despite that reservation, Suu Kyi's first visit to Singapore is seen as affirming Myanmar's close ties with the city-state as it seeks investments and aims to tap technocratic expertise to help its transformation to democracy from dictatorship.

Suu Kyi, 68, met Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, chief executives from some of the world's biggest companies, and visited Singapore's successful anti-corruption bureau. She was able to see the fruits of the island's success at two of its universities and also took in a Formula 1 race on Sunday.

Suu Kyi, the daughter of the hero of the campaign for independence from Britain, has shifted from democracy icon to opposition boss in the country's parliament after her party won a landslide in by-elections last year. She had been kept under house arrest for 15 out of 20 years after the junta ignored the results of a 1990 election won by her party.

She said many of her country's people believe Singapore could provide them with the key planks of their development model as it grapples with huge challenges, ranging from decrepit infrastructure to ethnic violence.

“A lot of Burmese look to Singapore when they think of economic reforms in our country because they see the success of Singapore, and many of our young people are getting their education here so these are the sectors where many of our people feel they can learn from,” she said, referring to Singapore's education and anti-corruption policies in particular.

Singapore was a major proponent of maintaining diplomatic relations and providing humanitarian aid to Myanmar under the military junta that was shunned and sanctioned by the West. In 2001, it established a center in the commercial capital Yangon to provide education for public servants, giving them training in English, trade, finance and information technology.

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Myanmar Opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi smiles upon her arrival back from Singapore at Yangon International Airport in Myanmar on Tuesday, Sept 24. (AP)

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