'An Icon Is Just A Label'

In a March 18 broadcast, Aung San Suu Kyi discusses the Jasmine revolutions, the circumstances of Burmese migrant workers in Thailand, and why “democracy icon” is a limiting label.


Q:  During the September 2007 crisis [the Saffron Revolution], the military government tied Buddhist monks to street lamp posts and beat, kicked, and verbally abused them. Do those actions not amount to being abusive and disrespectful to our religion, and thereby demeaning it? If so, I would like to know what kind of action can be taken against such atrocities. Every person who believes in a religion has the duty to protect his beliefs.

A:  It is not in accordance with the law to tie even an ordinary person, let alone a Buddhist monk, to a street lamp post and beat him. If someone commits a crime, no matter how great that crime might be, action can be taken against him only according to law. If you look at this from a basic human rights point of view, everyone has the right to fully protect his own religion. That is why we aspire to a governmental system where the law prevails and where human rights are fully guaranteed. Of course, this does not end just with aspirations—the National League for Democracy [NLD], on principle, is also working to bring about law and order and human rights in our country.

Q:  In the past, you and the NLD formed the Committee Representing the People’s Parliament [CRPP], which included the various ethnic nationalities and the NLD. We, the people, were very elated when this was first formed. We assumed that the CRPP would bring together those who were elected in the 1990 elections to form a government, and that the CRPP would carry out the things that they were supposed to do. But now, new elections have been held. Does the CRPP still have plans to call for a parliament based on the 1990 elections?

A:  The CRPP was established with the objective of carrying out, as far as possible, the work of a People’s Parliament. And with that in mind, the CRPP, as soon as it was established, demanded that any laws that were not appropriate for the country be rescinded. But because of repression and arrests, the Committee’s activities became difficult to carry out, and were ineffective. But from then until now, the CRPP members—including the ethnic nationalities and the NLD—have still been trying to bring about national reconciliation, which is one of the main duties of a People’s Parliament. Since you are a member of the NLD, you should exert as much effort as you can to achieve those goals instead of feeling sad about things that are not happening.

Q:  I am from Toronto, in Canada. We, the Burmese families in Canada, would like to know what role we can play to bring about national unity in Burma. We would like to do whatever we can so that all of the people in our country—including those of us who are in Canada, the generals who are governing the country, the people of Burma, and the ethnic peoples of our country—can work together peacefully for the progress of our country.

A:  I think that if you want to see the people of Burma become united, the Burmese people in Canada and in other countries must first become united themselves. Without distinguishing as to whether one lives in Burma or abroad, everyone should help each other and try to work on projects that can be implemented in practice. You can only imagine how much we, who live in Burma, are yearning for a national reconciliation that will really benefit us all.

Q:  I live in Thailand. Recently, a number of people’s uprisings have been occurring in the Arab countries. If a people’s uprising occurs in our poverty-stricken Burma, what kind of leadership would you provide?

A:  One can provide leadership only if the people want one to lead. Additionally, on matters like this, decisions cannot be made by just one person, but must be made and implemented with the agreement of the entire organization. Also, because situations are different in every country, and because there are differences in matters of timing, we cannot rely on any one model that has been thought out in advance.

Q:  We would like you, instead of being a “democracy icon,” to be an icon who will lead in building our Union and in bringing about unity among the ethnic nationalities, as that is what all of our ethnic nationalities are hoping for. But a lot of difficulties will have to be overcome, and we have seen that social conditions and development are lagging behind quite a lot in the ethnic areas. I think that some kind of assistance is needed in this matter.

A:  To tell you the truth, I do not want to be any kind of an icon. I do value the fact that you are saying this out of respect, but being an icon is just a label. I only want to be someone who works to my best ability to bring about democracy and to keep the spirit of the Union alive and strong. I am already aware that social and economic conditions in the ethnic areas are not as developed as they should be, and that is why we are starting to carry out humanitarian activities that will help people in the ethnic areas.

Q:  Burmese migrant workers in Thailand now have to pay hundreds of thousands of baht to get a temporary permit so that we can work legally in Thailand under the agreement between our two governments. Although we hold these temporary permits, Burmese migrant workers do not have equal rights with Thai workers. In addition, we do not have complete security. We are exploited by our Thai employers and are unjustly arrested by the Thai authorities. When these things happen, we do not get any protection from the Burmese embassy, and the Thai government itself does not give us any protection. Could you say something to the two governments that would help somewhat to ease our suffering?

A:  When I had the opportunity to talk to the Thai prime minister on the telephone, I told him about the concerns of the Burmese people who are in Thailand. I shall again report to the relevant authorities as much as I can about the Burmese refugees and migrant workers in Thailand. I shall also ask the International Labor Organization whether they can help.

Q:  I am helping with the education of Burmese migrant workers and their families in Thailand. We would like to know how we can sustain this work in the long term, and how we can make connections with other organizations that are doing the same kind of work.

A:  I honor and respect you, as I have heard over the radio about what you have done for Burmese migrant workers in Thailand. I have already thought about assisting with the education of the children of migrant workers from the education and health fund that I have established. If you have any suggestions regarding this, you can contact us and pass those along through RFA.


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Apr 01, 2011 04:09 AM

Wow,she is a great woman.