Q: I served as the general secretary of the National Democratic Congress Party when I was in Burma, and you stayed with our party when you visited the Kachin State back in 1989. I am very happy to hear that you have now been released from detention. I would like to know what you intend to do to bring about change in our country, what you will do when those changes happen, and how you will maintain those changes. Also, I would like to know how you would change the attitudes and beliefs of the people so that they can adapt to a constitutional democracy, taking into consideration the present situation that people are in.
A: I still remember with gratitude how the National Democratic Congress Party provided me with their kind hospitality during my visit. Once democracy is established in Burma, it will be very important to reform and change the educational system so that the attitudes and habits of a genuine democracy may take root in the society. Additionally, I think that various methods of disseminating news and information, of educating people, and of holding discussions and consultations in a free and open manner must be used to help people understand and participate in this effort of transformation. Since this effort must cover the country as a whole, we must organize to bring about a powerful force of cooperation from the entire country.
Q: I am a Chin ethnic national living in the UK. What kinds of things must one avoid in the process of achieving national reconciliation—especially when working with the ethnic nationality groups? What kinds of things could be a hindrance, and what kinds of things should be encouraged?
A: It is necessary to be able to see others’ points of view, so that there will be understanding and trust among the people. It will be difficult to have an understanding if one focuses only on one’s own wishes and concerns. It is important to have mutual and reciprocal respect for one another in order to have unity among the ethnic nationalities. If this cannot be achieved easily, one can at least develop love and friendship by being sincere and genuinely wishing to accomplish it.
Q: I am part of the Karen community living in Oslo, Norway. The military government has repressed you in many ways. They have given you one problem after another, and have even split up your family, but you have not retaliated in any way. You have focused only on working toward achieving national reconciliation. I can see that is your forgiveness that has allowed you to overcome all your difficulties. Could you tell me what you have done to acquire such a forgiving character?
A: As I see it, there are a lot of other people who have suffered and are continuing to suffer more than I have. So what I have experienced is not worth talking about. I have also been able to calm my mind with the help of the good comrades around me. I think that one can have peace of mind if one concentrates more on what one can do for others rather than thinking about one’s own problems.
Q: I am a Shan national now living in Canada. With regard to the 2nd Panglong Conference, if the conference is held and if ethnic concerns are discussed, issues such as self-administration and self-determination—which the ethnics have been longing for—are bound to be brought up, just as they were at the 1st Panglong Conference. If these issues are discussed, I think it would be very difficult for the military government that now rules the country to participate.
A: The 2nd Panglong is intended mainly to build and develop a genuine spirit of Union. When we discuss issues like self-administration and self-determination, these will be based on that spirit of Union, with the goal of achieving that spirit as well. Since this will be done without harm to anyone, there is no reason for anyone who values the spirit of Union not to participate in the process.
Q: Mother Suu, I am a former soldier. I lost my right leg and right hand due to land-mine injuries while serving in the Burmese military. Now, I am living in the United States. While I was in Burma, my disability pension was 400 kyat (U.S. 50 cents) a month. When I arrived in this country, I received disability assistance of U.S. $674 a month. In this country, if you are over 65 years of age, the government give you a pension whether you have worked for the government or not. The government also provides allowances for housing and food for people who are unemployed. This kind of system does not seem to exist even in communist countries like China. Whenever I hear of older people and the disabled begging for food in our country, I wish that a social welfare system like the one in the United States could quickly be established in Burma. What are your views with regard to this?
A: I would like to applaud and honor the strong will that you have to start a new life in the United States in spite of your physical disabilities. We in our own country would also like to have a social welfare system that would provide security for all those people who are disabled in body or in mind, people who are looking for work, and people who are aged and old. To get this, we need a government that will guarantee democratic rights and maintain a strong treasury. We are working to achieve those goals. May you be healthy and fulfilled with the good things that you desire, my son.
Q: I live in the state of Virginia in the United States. I have heard that you practiced meditation while you were under house arrest. Now that you have been released from detention, have you been able to find time to meditate at all? Also, when I was living in Japan, my Japanese friends would ask me why the Burmese, who are Buddhists, have not been able to get on the road to negotiations. What kind of mental attitude should a Buddhist have?
A: It is true that I do not have the time now to meditate as I did when I was under house arrest, but I am trying my very best to do so. Although the majority of the people in our country are Buddhists, it is hard to know how many of them really take Buddhism to heart. I consider myself only to be at the stage where I am endeavoring to become a good Buddhist. I think that if everyone tries to reduce greed, anger, and illusion as much as they can, we can then quickly get on the road to negotiation.