(This interview is translated from Burmese.)
Chiang Mai (Mizzima) – Burmese pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi was released from seven year’s house arrest on November 13. Mizzima’s managing editor Sein Win spoke to her by phone four days later to receive her comments on India’s policy on Burma, using the internet and social weblogs, ethnic issues, the intrusion of John Yettaw, youth issues and women’s rights.
Firstly, I’d like to ask you about India. What do you think Indian people can do for Burmese people and the establishment of democracy in Burma?
I think Indian citizens should learn more about Burma. Burma and India closely co-operated in fighting for independence. But currently, I think Indian citizens don’t know too much about Burma. Trying to know about Burma would clearly be the first step.
How can India’s government and parliament help Burma? What would you like to say?
This question is related to the previous one. India is a democratic country, so, as the citizens of a democratic country, if Indian people are active in supporting the establishment of democracy in Burma, India’s government will not ignore Burma. So, I want to say that Indian citizens should clearly learn more about Burma’s democracy movement as a first step. They should provide more support.
India says Burma is influenced by China. Another thing is that some say Burma should take steps towards democracy on the basis of a gradual evolution. What is your opinion regarding these issues?
This way of thinking merely concerns the relationship between China and India, not Burma’s democracy. So, we need to differentiate between the people who are thinking about the Sino-Indian relationship and the people who are seeking to establish democracy in Burma. Regarding the idea that Burma should approach democracy on the basis of gradual evolution, that’s an issue that must be decided only by us, the Burmese people.
It is said that civil war has raged in Burma for more than 60 years. And some Western governments also said Burma’s movement towards democracy should be carried out on the basis of gradual evolution. What are your thoughts on these stances?
People need to discuss that hypothesis using concrete facts. They say Burma should take gradual steps towards democracy because of continuing ethnic conflicts. On the other hand, we can say the reverse … that the continuing ethnic conflicts are the result of the lack of genuine democracy in Burma. So, it depends on the person. But, what we should think is how the current situations affect the people and what should we do for the sake of the people.
I’m healthy but I’m very busy. I don’t have enough time even to take a breath.
I heard you and your son spoke on the phone. Did he obtain a visa to enter Burma?
The authorities have not told him whether they will issue a visa or not. So all we can do is wait.
As a mother out of contact with her sons, how do you cope with that situation?
There are many people whose situations are worse than ours. For my sons, they can live in a country that has human rights. They don’t need to worry about the cost of living. Some children don’t have enough food. Some children are homeless. Their parents cannot help them. So I don’t have the heart to say that my situation is stressful.
Many people are deeply concerned for your safety. Do you think someone may harm you?
In the past I was harmed so there is no guarantee that they will not harm me. But I should not be worried sick about it. I should not act under the feeling of insecurity. Anyway, both young people and old people take care of me. They want to protect me as much as they can. They are trying too hard to ensure my safety.
There are many rumours with regard to John Yettaw’s intrusion. What do you think about this? Was it trick of the junta?
I don’t know. I have no idea. I don’t want to have any bias … I don’t think it was a plan of the junta, but I can’t guarantee that 100 per cent. All in all, I don’t suspect junta involvement.
Many young people came to listen to your speech. What do you want to tell them and women and what do you want to do for them?
I want them to utilise that collective strength effectively. I want them to use those strengths both for the country and for their own sake, correctly and systematically. I want to help them to keep the right balance between promoting their own welfare and promoting the welfare of the nation.
No, I don’t mean that. I just want their strength not to be wasted. If they use their strength just for their own sake, it will not be effective for them in the long run as no one can enjoy a good life in an unpleasant environment. And I think social affairs and politics cannot be separated and every citizen should have high spirits. When I was a child, I was taught general maxims. People can be trained to have high moral values.
In recent days, fighting between the junta and ethnic armed groups broke out. What are your thoughts over those tensions? How should we deal with ethnic unrest?
As I said earlier, we don’t have the custom to solve political problems by engaging in constructive political dialogue or by using non-violent methods. I want our people to develop that custom. That’s why I choose to use the principle of non-violence. We must create a custom in which we solve the problems through political dialogue and non-violence. That’s not easy. It’ll be difficult sometimes. So, we must try to establish that custom to end the conflicts.
Today [Tuesday], we’ve heard you’ve proposed a second Panglong Conference through the use of modern communications technology. You’ve also expressed a wish to use Twitter. I’m sure our readers are very interested when you’ll be online.
I’ve got an application form to apply for internet installation. But one of the rules … to obtain a permit to gain internet access says I must not be involved in politics. Nevertheless, I’ll apply for the permit, but I’ll fill in the form saying that I’ll participate in politics. I cannot obey that rule. But I will apply for the permit and fill in the correct information on the form.
If you are denied internet use, what alternatives will you seek?
We must seek alternatives. That’s why I said we must find alternatives suited to the 21st Century. I heard about the second Panglong Conference on the radio when I was detained under house arrest. Since that time, I thought we should apply modern technology to overcome the difficulties. Our young technicians will find ways. You also can offer us advice.
You’ve said mobile phones are a novelty for you. How about the internet?
I have never used the internet but I’m computer literate … [it] will not be difficult.
Do you have any immediate plans to go to ethnic minority areas to meet them?
No, I don’t have such plans at present because I still have many things to do in Rangoon.
What is your attitude to the political parties that contested in the recent election, and if they would like to form an alliance with the NLD?
I’ve said since the day I was released that we want the people to create a democratic network for themselves. So, all must have many strong allies. Even if we cannot form alliance with everyone, we will form an alliance with anyone who has the same objectives as us. As I said earlier, we are ready to co-operate with any … of the 37 contending political parties that really have the same objectives and want to work for democracy.
What would you like to say to Mizzima reporters?
The roles of journalists are very important … Journalists can influence the country. So I want journalists to use that influence for the welfare of the people. Some journalists are trying to secure scoops and get dramatic news. That’s also fine, but they also need to do so for the welfare of the nation. I think I said after I was released from house arrest that I’d found that communications technology was playing a very important role in this era. Most people have mobile phones. So, please don’t forget that information is very important and journalists are in powerful positions. I want to request that all journalists do good things for the people … with spiritual awareness.
By the way, how is your health?
Does ‘using strength correctly’ mean they should participate in politics?