Q: I have read and taken note about what you have said, that we should not stand back with folded arms when injustice is being done, but should stand on the side of righteousness. But the majority of the Burmese people, who have been repressed under a dictatorship for decades now, have a sense of fear permanently embedded in them. It is very difficult, using just words, to tell those people to stand on the side of righteousness. If you could guide us with examples of how to stand on the side of justice, this would help us a lot and give us confidence in our efforts.
A: Since you have asked for an example, let me tell you about an incident that happened before I entered politics. Once at a department store in Rangoon, when I was standing in line to pay for some things that I had bought, a foreigner cut across the line in front of everyone and paid for what he had bought. None of the people who were in front of me or behind me said a word. Because I am a person who believes there is no reason to accept something just because others have accepted it, I asked the saleslady why that person was allowed to cut in front of the queue. She became embarrassed and gave some excuses.
Some people might think I have a sharp tongue, but I made my point because I do not like people who take privileges in an unjust manner. Others might like the way I act. In any case, you can say that one does not need to acquiesce to injustice, but must react to it in a practical manner. I would therefore like you to stand on the side of justice. Start by doing it in small ways as much as you can, and then go on to deal with bigger issues.
Q: Libya’s president Gaddhafi was recently killed by the Libyan people. Also, Egypt’s former president Hosni Mubarak now faces legal action for his deeds, in spite of being old and gravely ill. What is your opinion of these events?
A: I have steadfastly stood on the side of human rights because I believe that everybody deserves to keep their basic human dignity and personal honor. Everyone, including criminals, deserves the benefit of the doubt under law, and therefore should be treated according to their basic human dignity. No matter how bad a person is, he should be treated by people of integrity in a humane manner without being debased or repressed. If one is bad just because the other person is bad, one would be no different from that other person.
Q: [Democratic Voice of Burma director] U Harn Yawnhwe and his daughter were recently allowed to return to Burma. He says that his trip was just an ordinary visit, but he did some political work as well. I am really starting to have some doubts. The military has let him into the country, but at the same time has arrested and jailed DVB reporters. I see the DVB as an organization that supports you and the Burmese democracy movement. I do not want the DVB to be influenced and dominated by the military.
A: I did not meet with U Harn Yawnhwe when he visited Burma. That is why I cannot tell you the reason why he came to Burma. People who are involved in politics usually have to face analyses and criticisms of their actions from other people. Although U Harn Yawnhwe’s trip was said to be an ordinary visit, it is not unusual to want to know more about his trip. But everyone has the right to keep one’s personal matters separate from one’s work. Put aside the question of whether you like the DVB or not. It is up to you to decide this only after studying its programs and other activities. I think it would be narrow-minded to decide this based only on the actions of one director.
Q: I think that the reason why political changes in Burma have taken so long to take place is because people cannot change their attitudes and their thinking. I believe that the present education system in Burma must be changed in order to bring about changes in the attitudes and thinking of the people. This is why we, Burma’s young people, would like you to advise us on how to begin taking steps to bring these changes about.
A: It is necessary both for adults and for young people to work together as much as they can on this issue. It has not yet been a year since the NLD and the democracy movement began opening free schools, but we have had a lot of success. Educated young people are sharing their knowledge by conducting courses as well. Libraries have also been opened, and reading groups have been formed. If one really has the desire, ideas will eventually emerge as to what should be done. I want you all to put in your own efforts.
Q: The present education system for everyone in Burma has all along been “teach this, study this, answer this”—a parrot-type teaching method. The children have lost their ability to think for themselves, so many parents would like to have the education system changed. This is why I would like to know what you have been thinking with regard to the future of the children of Burma.
A: As I have said in my [earlier] answer, we have been opening free schools as much as we can. Experts in the field of modern education are voluntarily training teachers so that they can teach the children to be interested in their lessons and to think for themselves in those schools. We are not only arranging those programs but are also helping as much as we can in actual practice.
Broadcast on Nov. 18, 2011.