Interview: Five Days is Too Short to Complete a Peace Conference

myanmar-assk-01142016.jpg Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi attends the opening ceremony of Union Peace Conference in Naypyidaw, Jan. 12, 2016.

Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi has been preparing for a peaceful political transition from the current quasi-civilian government under the Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) to a more democratic one led by the National League for Democracy (NLD). She spoke with reporter Khin Maung Soe of RFA’s Myanmar Service during the “Hard Road to Democracy” program this week about ongoing peace talks, cabinet appointments, Myanmar expats and press policy. Following are excerpts from the program.

RFA: What is your opinion is with regard to the peace conference that is being held now?

AUNG SAN SUU KYI: This peace conference is, in a way, acknowledging the completion of the NCA (Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement). That is how I understand it. The real peace conference must be organized by the next government.  How can you expect a real peace conference to be completed in 5 days?

RFA: Now there are many more armed groups than there were when the Pinlon Agreement was signed in (1947), and additionally, in negotiating with the individual groups, it seems that, just as some were easy to negotiate with, there were others who were very difficult to get agreement with.  As such, it seems that there would be many obstacles to overcome.

AUNG SAN SUU KYI: That is true. That is because there are many groups, so we have to work harder.  But on the other hand, with more numbers there is more strength when all the forces are put together.

RFA: I have now heard you have cautioned twice to those persons who wanted to become ministers in the cabinet. I would think that you would accept and consider those who say what kind of abilities they have and to allow them to serve (in the cabinet). And now why are you cautioning them?

AUNG SAN SUU KYI: Mostly, if someone really has abilities, he does not have to say it. Everybody knows. Others around him know. If somebody says he can carry out his duties, it will show whether he has carried out his duties efficiently or not. He does not have to say it. When people know that a person carries out his duties successfully they would accordingly give him the position.

RFA: Have you thought about how you would let Myanmar-born experts living abroad return to Myanmar and participate in the country-building process?

AUNG SAN SUU KYI: This has to be done in stages...  In some cases it is easier to carry this out.  This is because some of them cannot come and help here all of the time.  But there are some who would like to come and help as much as they can. However there has to be continuity. One would have to think differently if someone can come back only for a short period of time and not continue with his work or that it would not be convenient for working just for a short period of time. In some cases there may be times when someone can come and help for a month or two and there may be cases where long-term commitment is required.  It must be thought about in an extensive manner.  It is not something that can be addressed in a trivial manner.  You just cannot say "come on, come on, come and help" and when they get here, it would be futile, if they do not know what to do, where to go and how things are to be done. It will be exhausting for them, just as it would not be beneficial for us.

RFA: The private media, when covering government-related news or when covering the Hluttaw sessions, they do not get as much privileges as the government media in Myanmar.  The difference is that in various ceremonies, apart from one or two external media groups, only the government information ministry staff get to take close-up photos and make voice recordings. So the external media do not get good photos or good voice audios.  For instance, at yesterday's ceremony, due to the many participants, none of the reporters were allowed inside except the government media. As such the government should share the photos and the audio recordings with the external press.  This is in the interests of the country and the people, therefore all of the press should have access to it.  This is all done legally. As such, what do you think of this kind of issue?

AUNG SAN SUU KYI: There are a lot of things that needs to be done to make the media more modern. After all hasn't the government controlled the media for almost 50 years?  Changes that have occurred now, whatever you say, hasn't even been a decade. It has only been five years.

RFA: I have heard that you have had to caution some of your party members with regard to dealing with the media. What would you say on how the NLD government should react to questions by the media?

AUNG SAN SUU KYI: Those who are required to respond must respond. Some people, when they are dealing with the media they only know what they want to say. Without thinking about what ought to be said. Sometimes they recklessly say things without even knowing the facts.  We must control this from happening.  Sometimes they would even say things that are not in accordance with the policy of the party. If one is going to represent the party, he must only talk about the party policy.

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