As Myanmar's ongoing vote count pointed to a landslide victory for the opposition National League for Democracy, NLD leader Aung San Suu Kyi told RFA's Myanmar Service in an interview on Wednesday that she was not ready to declare "a winning moment yet" and that victory in the Nov. 8 national elections marked only the first step toward the goals of her supporters. The 70-year-old Nobel laureate told RFA's Khin Maung Soe that popular suspicion that the country's dominant military would refuse to honor the results were understandable, but that she believed that the nation "cannot be caught in the bond of suspicion."
RFA: Can you tell us roughly what percentage of the votes you have won so far?
Aung San Suu Kyi: More than 70% I should say.
RFA: Did you expect that much beforehand?
Aung San Suu Kyi: We could expect that much in advance because the NLD is close to the people. The NLD knows the people and their needs and so we could guess what they wanted.
RFA: How free and fair do you think the elections were?
Aung San Suu Kyi: We have made many complaints regarding violations. We made these complaints not because we want to stir up problems. Our people need to believe that these elections are really free and fair. And that’s why we had to submit official complaints against actions which are not in accord with the rules and regulations. Some cases have to be reported to the police, some to the electoral commission. And we cannot say such cases are very few.
RFA: How are you going to solve the problem of advance votes that came in after the polling stations closed?
Aung San Suu Kyi: These are not in accord with the rules and regulations. The rules are very clear. Advance votes within the country cannot be brought in after the 6 a.m. opening of the polling booths. And advance votes from overseas cannot come in later than 4 p.m.
RFA: Some USDP candidates conceded defeat and congratulated their respective NLD rivals who won the polls. What do you think of that?
Aung San Suu Kyi: Those kinds of actions are politically honorable and I respect these actions. I’d like to say I truly thank them.
RFA: NLD won the majority of seats they contended. What factors do you think make it possible to win in such a big margin?
Aung San Suu Kyi: That’s because the NLD is close to the people. The NLD was born of the people, and NLD members are from the people. We cannot be differentiated from them. Our hearts beat on the same note. We struggled together, we suffered together, and we had hopes together. We dreamed together for nearly 30 years. The NLD and the people are colleagues, comrades-in-arms. I think that’s the reason they supported us.
RFA: What are your feelings at this winning moment?
Aung San Suu Kyi: We do not definitely have a winning moment yet. I don’t see it that NLD has won the elections yet. It’s because of people’s qualities. Political awareness of the people is very heartening. I respect them, love them. I can see that the goal people wanted is still far ahead and this is only the first step. Only after reaching there I might be able to tell you my feelings. There are so many things to be done. Right now, I’m thinking only what I should do.
RFA: Some people are still suspicious of the military. They are not sure the military will totally honor the results. Can you comment on this?
Aung San Suu Kyi: It’s natural they have suspicions. But we cannot be caught in the bond of suspicion. We have to carry out what we should be doing with a firm determination and everyone is expecting these tasks to be done in proper manner. A people’s army should be hand in glove with the people. Military representatives in the Hluttaw (parliament) have told me more than once that they also want to be with the people.
RFA: You have requested to meet the president, commander in chief and the lower house speaker. Do you mean meeting them individually or together?
Aung San Suu Kyi: I can meet then individually or I can meet them together. I will meet whoever accepted my request.
RFA: People have accepted your slogan "time for real change". What are you going to do in the first place?
Aung San Suu Kyi: Well, the first thing is to bring about a change of administration. This will be carrying out the main task of the election result in respect to the people’s wishes. This will be the first major change.
RFA: How many educated people will you have in the government?
Aung San Suu Kyi: What do you mean by "educated?" We must contemplate what the meaning of being "educated" is. Some people think a person with plenty of degrees is an educated one. But I believe a person who can judge a situation correctly and make timely decisions is more important. It’s not that we must not value these graduates. I myself value them and respect them. We have only about four percent of the people in our country who are (college) graduates. So can we not value the majority? No, we must. If we just value the graduates, then does that mean our people are not valuable? I don’t believe that. What is important is we need right people in right positions.
RFA: People are left with three legacies since the military takeover in 1962: selfishness, mistrust of others and fear of everyone. Because of fear, people dare not go into the public and they lose their self-esteem. So what will you do to get rid of these three?
Aung San Suu Kyi: You said selfishness first, and then mistrust and fear. Actually, it is the other way round. It starts with fear. When fear sets in, you don’t trust others and when you don’t trust anyone then you become selfish. I cannot trust anyone, I must do it myself, and I cannot depend on anyone. What you said was the opposite of that. To abolish fear correctly is to nurture law and order. I have said this again and again. People need security of the mind. Why do they want democracy? Because it can give them freedom and security in a balanced way. People must have freedom and at the same time they must have security. They must not be using freedom to fight with each other. When they have security of the mind, their fears will subside, and their mistrust of others will also decline. There will be no need to worry that somebody will be looking at you with jealousy. They won't have to worry that someone will report some lies to their superiors and get them into trouble. This fear of being unjustly punished would disappear and I believe confidence and trust will mount and people will have more love and respect towards one another.
RFA: I notice you always care about young people. What do you think of young people in our country smoking and using drugs and the entire population physically stunted due to malnutrition? What will you do to bring them back to be physically on par with others?
Aung San Suu Kyi: This has something to do with the economy. I’ve always said that the most important thing is job creation. Jobs will earn them money and build self-confidence. Jobless people will have no self-confidence. And they feel they are worthless because when you don’t have a job you have to rely on someone. After so many years of malnutrition the bodies of our young are stunted. There’s a certain age when your height stops growing and you cannot change that. This sort of body growth cannot be fixed. But there are many things that can be changed. You might have a small body structure but there are opportunities to make yourself very fit and healthy. So we’ll have to work hard in many aspects. The problem of young people smoking and drinking is not a problem only for our country; It’s happening in many countries. But with regard to drug abuse, effective deterrents should be laid down to stop the problem. Young people drift away from society because, in many cases, they have no hope or goals. So, hope will have to be given to the young. The participation of young people in this week’s elections was so terrific, so admirable. They have objectives and goals like winning the elections. Because they have aims and goals to bring out their desires rightfully, our youth worked so hard to such an unbelievable extent.
RFA: When will the changes become noticeable?
Aung San Suu Kyi: First we must be able to form a government. After that, we’d have to lay out, as a duty, in front of the people what we will do during a certain time frame. The NLD has such plans to carry out. Not vague statements like we’ll give you a better economy or a better health sector. It has to be clear and precise. But we will need to become a government first.
RFA: What will you do to form a government then?
Aung San Suu Kyi: Well, we just can’t do it ourselves. The present government will have to cooperate. The Union Electoral Commission must finish its work first.
RFA: Can you explain about foreign investment and utilization of natural resources?
Aung San Suu Kyi: Of course we need foreign investment and at the same time we have to use the natural resources to a certain extent. There will be projects where we need foreign investment. The important thing is for our people to enjoy some of the benefits. Foreign investors will not come and do things without any returns for themselves. And we don’t expect them to come work for us free. But the local population should benefit rightfully. The locals should benefit just a little more than the companies.
RFA: Can you tell us about foreign policy?
Aung San Suu Kyi: The non-aligned policy which had been in practice since independence has been very successful. Not joining any groups. We played well with our neighbors India as well as the People’s Republic of China. We had good ties with other SE Asian nations too. We had no animosity towards anyone.
RFA: What have you in mind about the release of detained students and political prisoners?
Aung San Suu Kyi: We would have to work within the bounds of the law. There should be no political prisoners in a democratic country.
RFA: What about laws restricting freedoms?
Aung San Suu Kyi: Laws restricting freedoms like Article 5, Article 10, etc must be changed. We will have to change these kinds of laws. We tried to do that in the Hluttaw but we didn’t succeed as we were a minority.
RFA: I want you to say something for the people in this interview after the elections.
Aung San Suu Kyi: I would just like to thank all the people. I am encouraged, and I appreciate and value the support of the people. But it’s not finished yet and I’d like to caution all to look out for instigation. In the next few weeks, couple of months, people must be able to control themselves, beware of instigation aimed at creating riots and disturbances. There might be provocations from the sidelines when you are walking your own path but these can be overcome by trust and understanding of each other and it is important to calmly move towards the goal. And I believe you all can do it. In one word, thank you all very much.
Translated by Khin Maung Nyane.