WASHINGTON, Aug 21-In a sharp retort to Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, Burmese opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi told Radio Free Asia (RFA) that the people of Burma are ready to "embrace and support democracy."
Mahathir �is looking down on the Burmese people,� Aung San Suu Kyi told RFA�s Burmese service. �The majority of Burmese people will embrace and support democracy dutifully, and in the right spirit.�
Visiting the Burmese capital, Rangoon, on Monday, Mahathir backed the military government�s go-slow approach to reconciling with the opposition and its charismatic leader, a Nobel peace laureate.
�While we uphold democracy and would like to see democracy� we are also aware the process of change must be gradual,� Mahathir told reporters. �We know from experience it is not easy to handle democracy. If we do not know how to handle it, we will end up with anarchy.�
Responding to his comments in a telephone interview, Aung San Suu Kyi said: �Depending on the situation, if you need to move fast then you move fast, if you need to slow down then you slow down.�
�Fourteen years of struggle for democracy does not mean that we�re moving fast. No one can say that 14 years is �fast.��
Aung San Suu Kyi was freed May 6 from 19 months under house arrest.
Her party, the National League for Democracy (NLD), won 1990 general elections by a landslide. But the junta simply ignored the results and kept Aung San Suu Kyi under house arrest from 1989-95. It put her under house arrest again in September 2000, after she tried to leave the Burmese capital, Rangoon, on party business.
In its 2001 report on human rights around the world, the U.S. State Department described Burma�s record in that area as �extremely poor.� It also noted that the ruling junta continues to discriminate systematically against ethnic minorities. Radio Free Asia (RFA) broadcasts news, information, and cultural programming to Asian listeners who lack regular access to full and balanced reporting in their domestic media.
Through its broadcasts and call-in programs, RFA aims to fill a critical gap in the lives of people across Asia. Created by the U.S. Congress in 1994 and incorporated in 1996, RFA currently broadcasts in Burmese, Cantonese, Khmer, Korean, Lao, Mandarin, the Wu dialect, Vietnamese, Tibetan (Uke, Amdo, and Kham), and Uyghur. It adheres to the highest standards of journalism and aims to exemplify accuracy, balance, and fairness in its editorial content.