Q: How do you assess the work of U Thein Sein’s government during its first 100 days in office in Burma? Do you see that it is moving toward change in the country?
A: I have not been able to gauge yet whether the government of U Thein Sein has had any intention of moving toward change, based on their first 100 days in office. A hundred days is not a very long period, but if they really want change there are things that can be done to show that they want change. I think that it would be in the best interest of the country if they do the things that need to be done as soon as possible. I would like to urge them to do those things accordingly.
Q: The deputy foreign minister of Japan visited Burma recently and met with the government of U Thein Sein, as well as with yourself. What are your thoughts with regard to the attitude of Japan toward Burma? What do you think the role of Japan should be in the struggle for democracy in Burma?
A: Since Japan’s position in Asia as well as in the world is important, many assume that Japan will have a sense of responsibility when forming its political policies. The National League for Democracy believes that with regard to Burma, Japan should—with a sense of responsibility and a long-term view—support the emergence of a political system that will benefit the people of Burma. When we met with the group from the Japanese foreign ministry, we conducted our discussions based on that belief.
Q: Some groups in France who are working for Burma’s democracy, as well as others who are interested in Burma, have been asking about the NLD’s May 20 statement regarding tourism in Burma. Does that statement rescind the NLD’s previous boycott on tourism? Or does it allow tourism with certain restrictions? And if so, what would these restrictions be? Also, many travel agencies operating abroad are now doing business directly with companies in Burma that are connected to the generals. What effect will this NLD statement have on the sanctions imposed by the U.S. and Europe on the generals and the companies connected with them?
A: The answers to all your questions are included in the NLD report on tourism. The website where you can obtain the report is www.nldburma.org.
Q: How can the monks living in Burma help to support your travels around the country to make speeches and gather support from the people? I would also like to know what you expect and wish for from the people during your travels.
A: We believe that getting in touch with the people is an important part of the National League for Democracy’s political activities. That is why we plan to travel around the country and get in touch with the masses. In our meetings with the people during the last 20 years or so, I have never encountered any riots or disturbances. The only groups that have disturbed the peace and stability of the country are those groups that have systematically planned to disrupt our tours by harshly attacking us in an uncivilized manner. That is why we would like to respectfully submit to the venerable monks that they teach and guide the people so that they may enthusiastically support our efforts.
Q: Some time ago, at a seminar held in Naypyidaw, the economist Professor U Myint submitted a paper on poverty eradication. Could you explain to us your thoughts on that paper?
A: Just as the Internet carries comments on and analyses of Dr. U Myint’s paper, it also carries Dr. U Myint’s responses. There are usually different views on papers dealing with academic thoughts and ideas. Dr. U Myint’s paper is 20 pages long, so it would take a long time for different views concerning it to be discussed. If I were to explain my own view in a simple manner, I would say that we have to examine to what extent such theories can actually be put into practice. It will not be enough to write just one paper to cover all the problems in our country and analyze them, let alone propose the necessary changes. That is why I think there have to be more wide-ranging discussions.
Q: The government of U Thein Sein is soliciting advice from experts for the benefit of the rural population. My opinion is that if advice is taken from real farmers who are actually doing the farmwork, then the farmers will truly benefit. What do you think of my idea?
A: Not long ago, an education program for farmers was held at the headquarters of the National League for Democracy. At that three-day training course, the experts who conducted the course gained a lot of knowledge from the farmers who attended. That is why I can say that what you have said is true, based on our experience.
Program broadcast in Burmese on July 15, 2011.