Released last week after seven years under house arrest, Aung San Suu Kyi has made quick work of planning for the future. In this exclusive interview with DVB, the Burmese opposition icon talks about the next step for her and her National League for Democracy (NLD) party, and how the political and social landscape of the country compares to her last period of freedom.
It has been three days since your release and you have met with a lot of people. What is your view on their political awareness?
I see that a lot of younger generations are joining in and I am very much impressed with it. In the past, you couldn’t really see the youth as majority of the crowd but now it is evident that they are. They were very interested and enthusiastic. It would be hard to judge how much political awareness is there just by looking at the crowd but it seemed like the people have been wholeheartedly supportive of the NLD’s movement.
You’ve been in detention for seven years and people are looking forward to political change. What role would you play in this?
Most importantly, we would like to inspire in them a spirit to work for themselves if they wish for change, and we want help them out with the know-how in doing so. However, we can’t just do all the work by ourselves and this is what they need to learn. The people and us will have to learn from each other. Of course, we all are wishing for change, but just longing for it will not get the job done.
You focused your speech yesterday on national reconciliation, and you’ve repeatedly encouraged dialogue with the regime. How would you go about discussing this with them?
There is no plan for that [talks with the junta]. But like I said, we wish to open dialogue and work hand in hand for national reconciliation. I had read in the Myanmar Times [newspaper] that U Htay Oo from the Union Solidarity and Development Party said they would consider working with us, so we wouldn’t hold any preference on whom we will work with or whom we won’t. We are ready to cooperate with them if they are really looking for that for the good of the country.
So do you see any chance to begin cooperation with the regime?
We still need to think about that. I’ve been out for only two days and I still need to learn more on the country’s situation and what is in the people’s mind. I thoroughly listened to radio broadcasts during the seven years [of house arrest] and learnt a lot of news, but that alone isn’t enough. I need to discuss with, and listen to, the people’s voice. I need to know what’s in my colleagues’ mind and also the opinions of the people who are not political parties.
There has been fighting on the border since election day. What do you see on the ethnic issue?
I realise that there is much to do to for the spirit of solidarity of the union. We need to establish this strong union structure which can be trusted and depended on by everyone, and we will have to work hard to create vision among all ethnicities that it would be beneficial for everyone.
Do you have any plan regarding the Committee Representing the People’s Parliament?
We are planning to hold a CRPP meeting.
There has been a division in the democracy movement, including the NLD, over whether to boycott or participate in the elections. How are you planning to reconcile and reunite them?
Our doors are always open. I’ve said three or four times already since my release that we will always welcome the 37 parties that participated in the elections if they wish to work with us. It would be nice if we can coordinate our work together and start a good tradition of working together in unity for the good of the country based on diversity.
Do you have anything specific to say about the NDF formed by some former NLD members?
No. The NDF is one of the 37 parties.
According to unofficial election results, the USDP are winning by around 80 percent. What is your speculation on the future of politics?
The DVB may already know that we have raised a lot of questions regarding the 2010 election results. More of the parties that participated in the elections have spoken of foul play and said they were preparing to file complaints. The NLD has made a decision to form a committee to investigate if there was any unfair treatment in the elections and how, and to prepare a report for the prevalence of law and order.
We heard there will be a court hearing for the case by the NLD. According to the government, the NLD is no longer in existence. Now that you are released, however, what do you think about the NLD’s future role?
I don’t want to comment on that as I’m not a legal expert. But the NLD’s future is more of a concern of the people, not the court.
Do you have anything to say about international sanctions and the tourism boycott on Burma?
We need to study whether there is strong evidence over the claim that sanctions are only hurting the people and that they should be removed, as well as to examiner the likely political consequences [of removing them]. We would also like to discuss this with the countries that have imposed sanctions.
China hasn’t commented on your release, unlike other countries such as the EU and the US. Do you have anything to say about our neighbours, especially the superpowers?
I wish to make good neighbours with both China and India. Maybe [China] had a reason to not say anything. But it is not a tradition for both China and India to say much about the NLD, although I heard some positive comments from India on my release. As we are going to be neighbours forever, we’d rather just make good neighbours.
What do you feel about the importance of information technology?
Communication obviously plays a crucial role. When I was released the other day, I saw a lot of people taking photos with their mobile phones – and this is a significant difference compared to seven years ago. Now it would be hard to do something without people outside knowing. Now we are living in the age where the whole world can easily find out what is going on in the country. It’s equipment that can bring more transparency to our country.
But on the other hand, with developing technology, there are issues with media freedom – people like Min Ko Naing were sent to jail under the Electronics Act.
This has to do with…how much we value basic human rights. These issues emerged out of political problems and the political problem should be solved via political means. However, people can still get around various restrictions with this good communication [technology]. Isn’t that why I am able to talk to DVB now?
There are lots of concerns over your safety. What will you do about this? Do you have anything to say about the 2003 Depayin incident which led to your house arrest?
There are NLD members who took the responsibility for my safety and they are doing as much as they can. But for an organisation like us, there is a limitation to what we can do. Our security did their job during the Depayin incident – [NLD] youth members courageously protected me and I believe they will continue to protect me when in need.