Interview with Aung San Suu Kyi

‘Inclusiveness’ Key to Reforms
In a Dec. 31 program, Aung San Suu Kyi discusses Burma’s 1990 elections, says she does not want to see her country’s military rulers put on trial, and points to surprising sources of support.

Q: How are you? Now that the 2010 elections are over, how are we going to accept the results of those elections with reference to the results of the 1990 elections? How are we to proceed? Also, can the NLD accept the fact that the 1990 elections have been voided? [Note: The National League for Democracy, the political opposition party led by Aung San Suu Kyi, won the 1990 elections in a show of overwhelming support by the Burmese people, but those results were ignored by Burma’s ruling generals.]

A: I am well except for the fact that my throat is not so clear. I think that is because I have been speaking too much. If I cut down on my talks, I am sure my throat will feel much better. If I may express my opinion with regard to the 2010 and 1990 elections, we cannot discard the results of the 1990 elections. The reason is not because the NLD won the elections or because the NLD wanted to hold on to its victory. It is to respect the will of the people. It is also because we agree to the principle of democracy, which is having a high regard for the wishes of the people.

Just as there are people who have accepted the 2010 elections, our National League for Democracy did not accept those elections right from the beginning. That is why, as we commit ourselves to the political process of our country, we will adhere to the political principle of directing our efforts not only from within the parliament but also from outside the parliament.

In Burmese politics, the principle of all-inclusiveness is a very important factor. When we speak of all-inclusiveness, we mean everybody who is interested in politics, everybody who is interested in social affairs, and especially all of those—and I would like to emphasize this—who have been incarcerated for their beliefs. I believe that they must be released as soon as possible, so that they may participate in the political process of our country.

Q: I am 18 years old and am attending school in London. Europe and America have imposed sanctions on Burma’s military leaders because of their repression of the Burmese people, and many would like to see those leaders sent before the International Criminal Court (ICC). Do you want to see Burma’s military government sent before the ICC, and are there other ways to apply more pressure?

A: It is important to consider carefully whether one would send the military government before the ICC as a means of applying pressure on them, or because one holds a grudge against them. It would not be good for the country if such an action were taken because of a grudge. I only want to create a situation in which there would be no reason for sending anyone from our country before the ICC.

Q: At a time when the democratic forces in our country regard Burma’s monks as their heroes, there are also many monks who bully and abuse the people. Especially in Pegu, there are monks who commit crimes for which, if they were laymen, they would have been sentenced to death. Many are involved in black marketeering, and some have even stolen the treasures that are kept in the pagodas. But when people inform the authorities about these crimes, the authorities are reluctant to take any action against the monks for fear that this could lead to public disturbances.

A: Since we are all Buddhists, we are very careful not to offend the monks. This is why it is not unusual for laypeople to be careful not to judge whether or not a monk has violated his vows and broken the monastic rules. I think that when there is a violation, the monks should handle such cases on their own.

Q: Greetings. I am a member of the Myanmar [Burma] Student Monks’ Association in Sri Lanka. I have heard that a Second Panglong Conference is going to be held and that some people say the military government should be included, while others say they should not be included. How do you plan to proceed if the military government decides not to participate?

A: It is true that I would like the Tatmadaw [Burma’s military] to be included in the Second Panglong process, but whether or not they participate is not a decision I can make. In any case, I think that it will be necessary for us to hold the 21st Century Panglong in order to build a genuine Union spirit. This may or may not take the form of a conference—that is why we are using the term 21st Century Panglong. I would like to respectfully say that in these modern times, because of the advancement of technology, opinions and views can be presented without everyone gathering in one particular place.

Q: Just as our goal is the emergence of a federal union where all the ethnic nationalities and the people of our country, including the military, can live together peacefully in friendship and for better or worse, it is also our strong belief that you—Daw Aung San Suu Kyi—are our leader as we march steadfastly along the difficult path to that goal. This is why all of us who now live in Australia would like you, our leader, to advise us as to how we should direct our efforts as we work in the interests of the Burmese people now and in the future.

A: I am very pleased to hear on the radio about the activities you and others in Australia are involved in to support democracy and human rights in Burma. I am very encouraged to hear that the Burmese people, including the ethnic nationalities, living abroad are working in their own way for the development and benefit of our country. What I see now as the most important thing for our country is the emergence of an all-inclusive political process in which all of our people can participate. I would like everyone to work for this purpose with unity.

Q: I am a former member of the Insein Township NLD Youth Organization. Just as I am elated by your release from detention, I am also concerned that you might be detained again. When I was arrested in 2007, I was transferred from the Kyaikasan interrogation center to the No. 3 Hmawbi police battalion. While I was detained there, the noncommissioned officers who watched over me told me that they have great respect for you. They said that they trust you and rely on you, and that they put their hope in you because of the difficult lives they face. Could you offer them some encouraging words to make their lives better?

A: I remember you, and I hope that you are well. I am both happy and sad to hear about your experiences in detention. I would like to say that when we hear of the love, respect, and reliance that the police NCOs have for us, we would like to reciprocate with our own loving-kindness as well. When I was detained at the Yemon detention center at the No. 3 Hmawbi police battalion in 2003, I would mentally recite a prayer of appreciation before my meals, thanking the people who provided me with the food being given to me by the Tatmadaw. And in gratitude, I always vowed to myself before my meals that I would do my very best to find a solution to the differences between the Tatmadaw and the people of Burma. In accordance with those vows, I would like to say that I am working toward that goal. I wish you good health and happiness, and that you may achieve all of your wishes.

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