Suu Kyi gives Australia asylum-seeker advice

Last updated 19:55 01/12/2013

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Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi offered advice on Australia's asylum-seeker policy during her first visit Down Under, but left with the friendliest of greetings  from political leaders.

During her five-day visit, Ms Suu Kyi told a Sydney audience that ''justice has to be tempered by mercy'' when asked about the case of a baby born in Australia to asylum seekers from Myanmar.

But for the rest of the visit Ms Suu Kyi was praised by the federal government for her work in trying to strengthen democracy in her native country.

Prime Minister Tony Abbott described her as an ''icon of democracy''.

''She has suffered for her country, she has suffered for her belief in democratic freedoms,'' he said.

Similarly, Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said it was Ms Suu Kyi who inspired her to get into politics.

For her part, Ms Suu Kyi played down the glowing assessments.

''Let me assure you, I'm no saint,'' she told a Sydney audience.

''I look upon myself as a politician, not as an icon.''

Ms Suu Kyi urged Australia to take a long-term view of Myanmar as it works to shed more than half a century of military rule.

''I think many governments, not just the Australian government, generally like to get on with whoever happens to be in power at the moment,'' she said.

''But, as I said, it's better to look to the long run and, after all, aren't Australians supposed to be rather inclined to take risks?''

Ms Suu Kyi concluded her visit with a keynote speech at a World AIDS Day event in Melbourne on Sunday.

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