Doing What's 'Appropriate'

In a program broadcast on June 3, Aung San Suu Kyi highlights the need for a probe into the 2003 Depayin massacre and urges participation in a signature campaign demanding the release of political prisoners.
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Q:  The present Burmese government has declared that it is a new democratic government. But why is this new government slow in exposing the truth about the Depayin massacre, which occurred during the time of the previous government? I have heard that leaders of other countries all over the world have been arrested and that action has been taken against them after massacres were exposed. But our present government has done nothing with regard to such cases.

A:  We have asked the authorities to start an investigation with regard to the Depayin incident. Punitive action and revenge are not the main issues in our request, though. We want to highlight the fact that it is not permissible—in a country where integrity, honor, responsibility, and the rule of law are prevalent—to ignore unlawful acts against the people. I think that with regard to the honor and integrity of the country, you would have to ask those people who are responsible why they have not done the appropriate thing in this matter.

Q:  Why do people who do not do anything for the country themselves only like to blame and criticize people who make personal sacrifices and work in the interests of the country? What would you say to those people?

A:  Generally, we can look in two ways at the reasons why people who will not do anything themselves blame and criticize others. Some have a guilty conscience for not doing anything themselves, and therefore act in a reckless manner or as if they are mad. Then there are those who want a lot of things to happen—but who, not understanding their own responsibility, blame others for not being effective in their work and become angry and dissatisfied. In short, I would just say that these people are irresponsible and ignorant of their own responsibilities.

Q:  In 1989, you pledged that NLD members would participate in the Martyrs’ Day march to the Martyrs’ Mausoleum and that they would pay their respects at the mausoleum. Many NLD members attended  this march because of your pledge. Just as Martyrs’ Day drew near, though, many NLD members got into trouble. Some fled the country, some were arrested, and some were imprisoned. What is your answer with regard to the accusation that many NLD followers got into trouble because you, as a leader, retracted your pledge at that time?

A:  It was I who was responsible for canceling the plan to march to the Martyrs’ Mausoleum. It was necessary to change the plan, and I take responsibility for the consequences. I have not heard that any of the lives of the people who went to the march were wrecked—whether they went to the march because they did not know that the plan had been canceled, or because they did not accept that the plan had been canceled. As far as I am aware, not one person who went to the march was given a long prison sentence. Three women who distributed notices canceling the march were sent to jail for three years. In fact, quite a lot of people who did not attend the march were also sent to jail. That was by arrangement of the SLORC. It had nothing to do with our Martyrs’ Mausoleum plan.

Q:  In my circle of people, whenever I ask them about human rights or democracy, most answer that they are not interested in politics. They say that politics is none of their business. And recently, a learned economist said in an interview with a media organization that politics is none of his business, and that he is concerned only with the study of economics. When I heard this, I felt that I could not leave it at that and thought that I should ask you about this. What I would like to know is, what is the meaning of politics? And is it appropriate for every citizen to participate and work in politics?

A:  Just as I have answered this type of question many times, I think I will have to repeatedly keep saying what politics is and who should be concerned with it, so that this will be embedded in the hearts and minds of the people. Politics is a matter that concerns all citizens, whether they want to be concerned with it or not. To put it simply:  Isn’t it true that the government of a country is closely connected to politics? Whether one likes it or not, a government’s actions have an effect on the lives of every citizen. If a person is an economist, there is no reason for him not to know anything about politics. Perhaps he has a cold.

Q:  Foreigners who have an interest in Burma are asking me whether it would be a good idea to stage demonstrations by all of the Burmese people both inside Burma and abroad at the same time on the same day to demand the immediate release of all political prisoners. Isn’t this the time when the United Nations and the international community are closely monitoring the new Burmese government, and also when efforts are being made for the U.N. Security Council to decide on a resolution regarding the establishment of an Inquiry Commission on Burma?

A:  It is a good idea to plan demonstrations all over the world demanding the release of political prisoners. But for the moment, I would like you all to enthusiastically participate and help in the signature campaign that has been organized by the Democracy Network. This campaign demands the release of political prisoners, a ceasefire in the country, and the right of Burmese people who have left Burma to be able to return peacefully. I would like you to urge other Burmese around you, and also those foreigners who are interested in Burma, to participate and add their signatures to this campaign.

Q:  On the last New Year’s Day, at the ceremony paying respects to the elderly held at the NLD headquarters, I saw you presenting the Unknown/Unsung Heroes Award to three political prisoners. I also saw you, yourself, signing and supporting the signature campaign demanding that the country’s president release all political prisoners that is being organized by the youth inside the country. What is your view and thinking with regard to the political prisoners and the unknown/unsung heroes?

A:  There would be a lot to say if I were to talk about the political prisoners and the unknown/unsung heroes. The most important point is that political prisoners are courageous people who dare to risk prison just to stand up for their political beliefs. Unknown/unsung heroes are those people who have struggled inspired by that kind of courage, and who people are unaware of, and yet continue with their life’s struggle while holding on to their beliefs.

Q:  I once read in a book that in any country, people get the government they deserve. Is this Burma’s situation at this moment?

A:  What I know of this quote is that this was said by a Frenchman, de Maistre, who desired a government completely controlled by kings and popes and who opposed science and liberal policies. That kind of analysis with unbending views is narrow-minded. As for me, I believe that we must struggle inspired by the belief that every citizen has the ability to create his or her own country’s destiny.





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