‘Hope is the Desire to Try’
covering burma and southeast asia
Wednesday, February 20, 2019


‘Hope is the Desire to Try’


Aung San Suu Kyi delivers a speech to thousands of supporters gathered at the National League for Democracy headquarters in Rangoon on Nov. 14, the day after her release from house arrest. (Photo: AFP)

The Irrawaddy spoke to Burmese pro-democracy leader and Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi by telephone in the days after she was released from house arrest.

She talked about the military generals she has met over the years and about Gandhi, mobile phones, the new parliament and the changes she has seen in Rangoon since she last walked free

Question: You are now free after seven years of house arrest. Over the past few days, you’ve had a chance to speak to the people of Burma and see the outside world. What do you think has changed?

Answer: The first thing I noticed was that there were many more young people in the crowd that came to welcome me. Many of them were using cell phones. They were taking photographs with their phones, which I had never seen before. There was no such thing 10 years ago, but they have become quite widespread these days. I think there are more communication lines than before, which is important. I don’t see many significant changes in the city. Perhaps that’s because I haven’t been to many parts of the city, since I am not the kind of person who is always on the street.

Q: Are the Burmese people poorer now than before?

A: They looked poor, but those who came to greet me and give their support were very happy and smiling. I am very thankful to them. I could really feel their warmth.

Q: Some observers say your release is just a matter of transferring you from a smaller prison to a bigger one. Do you feel that way?

A: I don’t see it that way. I always consider myself free because my mind is free. With my own ideology and beliefs, I am walking on the path that I have chosen. I have never felt that I wasn’t free. Even when I was officially released, I felt the same. Of course, I now have much more work to do. I am now able to see and feel the changes in person. But, in fact, my inner mind remains the same.

Q: Many believe your release one week after the election was just an attempt by the military regime to divert people’s attention from the polls. What do you think about that?

A: I can’t say exactly. It’s possible. Since the election is over now, people don’t need to focus on it anymore. That’s why they are paying more attention to me. [Laughs]

Q: Soon after your release, you said you wanted to meet with the leaders of the military regime to help bring about national reconciliation in Burma. However, the junta leaders don’t seem to want to talk to you. Since you first entered Burmese politics in 1988, the regime has repeatedly stated that it has never wanted your presence. It has been 22 years now. Why do you think they still don’t want to speak with you, even though you have offered dialogue with them on numerous occasions?

A: I think we have a different understanding of the main purpose of dialogue and its real meaning and essence. In my opinion, dialogue is not a debate to make one side lose and the other win. One side says what it wants, and so does the other. If there are disagreements, a negotiation should be carried out. Dialogue must be a win-win situation for both parties. I have said this to them before, but they don’t seem to understand it. I am not sure if they don’t understand it or if they don’t believe it. Perhaps it’s because in the military, there is no such thing as a negotiated settlement. This is something I really need to give a lot of thought to.

Q: You met with senior leaders of the military, including Snr-Gen Than Shwe and Gen Khin Nyunt, in 1994, 1995 and around 2000. Were your conversations with them fruitful?

A: Yes, we met, but I can’t say that we had a true dialogue. I can say that real discussions took place when I met with Col. Tin Hlaing, Maj-Gen Kyaw Win and Brig-Gen Than Htun after the Depayin incident. However, what we discussed has never actually been implemented.

Q: They are no longer in office. Neither is Gen Khin Nyunt. Some are serving lengthy prison terms. What do think about them? Did you think that they might have been the ones who might be able to bridge the gap between you and the military? Do you plan to see them again?

A: I think they did the best they could.

1  |  2 | 3  next page »

Please read our policy before you post comments. Click here
E-mail:   (Your e-mail will not be published.)
You have characters left.
Word Verification: captcha Type the characters you see in the picture.

more articles in this section