Should Burma Chair ASEAN?

In a program aired on May 13, Aung San Suu Kyi says it is premature for Burma to chair the regional grouping ASEAN, discusses party discipline in building democracy, and urges Burma’s government to curb inflation.

2011.05.18
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Q:  I have been a member of the NLD since it was first established. I also firmly support the future activities of the NLD. I believe that it is too early for the new Burmese government to ask to chair ASEAN [Association of Southeast Asian Nations] in 2014 because it has yet to show anything with regard to the national political reconciliation that the people have been asking for.

A:  From what I have heard, although some ASEAN countries on principle accept Burma’s request to chair ASEAN in 2014, they are of the opinion that they should wait and see what will happen. I hope that they are waiting to see how much progress there will be in our country. I have heard that Singapore believes that Burma should chair ASEAN when it is its turn in 2016. I think that instead of Burma chairing ASEAN two years ahead of its turn to do so, it is more important that Burma release all political prisoners, which has been long overdue, and to implement a political process in which all of the people can participate.

Q:  I am responsible for the affairs in Thailand of the International Buddhist Monks League. While you were in detention, some members of the NLD [National League for Democracy] were expelled from the party. The elders of the party expelled those members because they had violated party regulations. In actual fact, those people strongly desire democracy and have actively worked for such goals. And though they have been expelled, I see that they are still resolutely working for democracy. I believe that by reconsidering their cases and accepting them back into the party, the party will be strengthened and more work will be done.

A:  I myself have been expelled from the party. But I have been loyal to the party, and when I was released from house arrest in 1995 I resumed my duties at the NLD. That is why it would not be a burden for us to cooperate with those who value democratic norms and practices and who work accordingly.

Q:  One of the principles of democracy is that the minority accept the majority’s opinion. I also understand from what you have said that the majority must also respect the minority. But there are those who say that in a democratic organization, they will only work if that work is in line with their own thinking. How should the people view that kind of attitude?

A:  As you say, the minority must accept the majority view, and the majority must respect the minority. That is the belief of people who respect democracy. Not doing what one does not like in an organization is a form of egotism. For example, things like ignoring and voiding the results of the 1990 elections because they did not like those results can be seen as an insult to democracy. I think that people will understand that discarding the essence of democracy is not an act that genuine democratic people will do.

Q:  What are your future plans, especially regarding activities related to young people’s and women’s affairs?

A:  Apart from the programs already being implemented for young people and women, I have been thinking a lot about other programs. If I may sum this all up:  on the one hand, there are programs to increase knowledge and abilities, and on the other hand, there are programs that effectively serve the interests of the people. By combining these two, we aim to develop many young people and women who will dare, and know how, to decide the fate of the country on their own.

Q:  I have heard that in the past, when you were released from detention, you would travel to the districts and meet with the people. But lately, since you were last released from house arrest, I have not heard of you traveling to the districts. Is this because you are concerned that something like the Depayin incident might occur again?

A:  Since being released from house arrest, I have been burdened with a lot of work and responsibilities. I am occupied full-time with matters relating to my office, my home, and my work. I hope that I can start to work on touring the country in a few months’ time.

Q:  The Asian Development Bank is saying that Burma’s inflation is expected to be at its worst by 2012. What should be done to alleviate this problem, which has continuously affected Burma?

A:  If I may quote the view of economists with regard to inflation, inflation is caused by the uncontrolled printing of money to cover the country’s expenditures, the scarcity of food, and increases in general commodity prices due to fuel price increases and mismanagement. To effectively deal with such a lot of issues, we need government and domestic economic and financial institutions that will implement the appropriate and correct advice given by economists. And if we need the assistance of international financial and monetary organizations, we must have a government that can acquire such help.

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