'Treat Each Other With Respect'

In her latest weekly conversation with listeners, Aung San Suu Kyi says mutual respect among Burmese ethnic groups is key to national unity.

2011.08.22
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Q:  Our [ethnic] Chin people have always been discriminated against, bullied, and detained in Burma. For example, at our schools in Htilin, what one sees most of the time is that young Chin national children are discriminated against and treated as less than equal among the students. The same treatment is given to Chin national teachers as well. I feel that this kind of situation is a threat to our national unity. We would like to know your thoughts on this situation.

A:  I am very saddened to hear that our Chin people have been treated in a discriminatory manner. I myself have warm feelings for the Chin people. I have made political campaign trips to the seven divisions and all of the states in our country, and when I visited the Chin State, I was warmly welcomed with love by the Chin people. I still remember how the Chin people raised their young children on their shoulders so that they could see me, saying, “This is the daughter of our General Aung San.” I also recall how the Chin people generously presented me with small keepsakes despite having to struggle so tirelessly in their daily lives.

The Chin people are not only very loving, but are also very clever. Please do not be discouraged. Respond to those people who do not treat you as brothers by resolving to show them the value of your abilities, and face the challenges of your lives with a genuine Union spirit. I would also like to give this message to my listeners who are ethnic Burmese nationals: If we all want to live in a peaceful and tranquil Union with a sense of security, it is essential to treat each other with respect. I would like to ask everyone to love our ethnic nationality brothers with a genuine Union spirit, and to treat them as equals.

Q:  I have been living in the state of Arizona in the United States for five years now. I would like to return to Burma sometime in the future and work for the development of the country. I have not taken U.S. citizenship and have remained a Burmese citizen. I would like to give you credit for not taking up the citizenship of whatever country in which you have lived, and for having taken the leading role in Burmese politics without giving up your Burmese citizenship. Between those Burmese people who have become the citizens of foreign countries, and those who have remained citizens of Burma while living abroad, who do you think will be more relevant in the future of Burmese politics in the long run?

A:  I have never considered giving up my Burmese citizenship, because I am proud to be a citizen of the independent Burma that was achieved through the struggle of our independence leaders, including my father. That is my own personal belief. I do not see any fault in those Burmese people who have taken up foreign citizenship for various reasons of their own. I think that they should be loyal and grateful to the country that has given them citizenship. At the same time, just as they should be loyal and thankful to their adopted country, it would also be good not to forget to love the country of their birth. One can show that love without being involved in the politics of the country of one’s birth.

Q:  Do you have any intention, and have you thought of any plan, to honor or provide assistance to those who have worked for Burma’s democracy and human rights over successive generations—including the “Four 8s” era—and who have lost their lives, been injured, or been unjustly arrested or detained or otherwise affected?

A:  It has now been 16 years that the NLD has been providing assistance through the humanitarian assistance group to political prisoners and their families—and not just to NLD members, but to those who were involved in [the events of] 1988. Also included are those who have been sent to prison for their beliefs. With regard to providing assistance to people who have been affected because of those who lost their lives, I have to openly admit that we cannot provide assistance to them, because we cannot financially afford it. As for giving medals of honor, we should eventually be able to do that. But since there have been so many who have lost their lives, I do not think this can be achieved without difficulty. Interested people like you, who live abroad, can also help with this effort.

Q:  In March of 1988, Institute of Technology student Ko Phone Maw was killed when security forces shot him. There were demonstrations by the students as well. Did you think, at that time, that a people’s uprising like the “Four 8s” would take place? Why did this uprising not produce the changes that should have occurred?

A:  I was able to see that the problem that existed between the authorities and the students in 1988 was not going to be resolved easily. But I did not expect that an uprising on the scale of the “Four 8s” was going to happen. Although this uprising did not quickly establish a democratic system, I do not see it as a failure. Instead, I see it as the beginning of the long road to a democratic revolution. Let us assess why this has taken so long only after we achieve success.

Q:  What were the reasons for the “Four 8s” uprising, which occurred when we were young? Is there any likelihood that a similar uprising will take place under your leadership?

A:  The 1988 uprising did not occur because of a particular day’s event. It was an uprising that developed slowly over a long time because of the accumulated dissatisfaction of the people. There are people who believe that history repeats itself. But from another point of view, it is very rare that events occur just as they did in the past. If the dissatisfaction of the people begins to build again for a long period of time, the consequences will manifest in one way or another.

Q:  Since you first became involved in politics, you have always taken a nonviolent approach. But we have not seen you prescribe a specific nonviolent approach in which all of the people can participate. Can you give us some direction as to how the population of the entire country can get involved in a nonviolent manner for our human rights at the appropriate time? Also, the NLD is now taking a leading role in the politics of Burma. Could you clearly explain the road map, or the political direction, that the NLD will take from now on?

A:  Nonviolent political activities are the activities that we are involved in on a normal daily basis. Anyone who wishes to participate in these activities is most welcome to do so. For example, one can put one’s signature on the democratic network’s campaign demanding the release of all political prisoners, or can help with the free school that has been set up on a humanitarian basis. I myself don’t really like the term “political road map,” as I see it as the footprint of a dictatorship. I would like you to study the activities of the National League for Democracy and, if you agree with them, feel free to support those activities in your own way by trying to gather similar support among the people in your own environment.

Program broadcast on Aug. 12, 2011.

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