Q: I live in the USA. There is no reason for us to accept the [Burmese government’s] invitation for Burmese living abroad to return to Burma without the release, first, of political prisoners such as the ’88 student leaders, including U Min Ko Naing. We will return to Burma without fear only if significant and positive results regarding the political prisoners and the politicians in our country emerge from your talks with the new government. Please try your best to do something for the release of the political prisoners.
A: Both I and the National League for Democracy have been working for decades now for the release of political prisoners, and we will continue to look for effective ways to achieve this. In our country, we cannot look at problems individually. We have to consider related problems and continuously look for the best solution. It is not easy, but since it is something that needs to be done, it is worth doing.
Q: During the 1988 people’s uprising in Burma, there were many opportunities for forming a new government. But former prime minister U Nu was unsuccessful in forming a parallel government. What were the reasons for this? Later, when the NLD won the 1990 elections, would you have been able to form a government as leader of the NLD if you had been a free person? Then, in 2010, when the government held elections while you under house arrest, the [junta-backed] Union Solidarity and Development Association (USDA) formed the so-called civilian government. What do you think would have happened if you had been a free person at that time? If there comes a time in the future when the opportunity for Burma to form a democratic government presents itself, what sort of political environment, conditions, and timing would be most appropriate for this to occur?
A: Historical and political researchers come up with different answers whenever they analyze past events, and they have different views of particular events. “What might have happened, under what conditions, in a certain situation?”—In the end, opinions and views are purely speculative. This is why there can be several different answers to your questions. If I may reply in a simple and clear manner to the last of your questions, I would say that a democratic government can emerge in a free political environment where a government is elected through free and fair elections.
Q: It is sometimes said of the Burmese people that if two of them are present, three groups can be formed. They have a reputation for disunity. Of course, people can have different views. But when Burmese conduct business or get involved in politics, what basic attitudes should they adopt so that they can deal with one another without becoming fractious? To what extent should they embrace forgiveness, understanding, and tolerance?
A: Things like forgiveness and understanding make relations between humans a lot smoother. People who have full self-confidence are seldom jealous of others. Having self-confidence and emotional security depend on the values of society and on how one is brought up. In other words, these things must develop from the time when one is born.
Q: The people of Burma see your meeting with President U Thein Sein as a positive development toward change. Now, the president’s advisor, Dr. Nay Zin Latt, has said in an interview with RFA that there is a chance the political prisoners may be released if you give “guarantees.” What kind of guarantees must you give for the release of the political prisoners?
A: I have met with President U Thein Sein only once. And I have said in the statement released by the National League for Democracy that I am pleased and happy with that meeting. This was an initial meeting to exchange views, and now is not the time to release details of what was discussed there. I would like you to understand this. As to what Dr. Nay Zin Latt said, it would be more appropriate to ask the person who said it.
Q: To meet its own economic needs, China has built dams to produce electrical power, and as a consequence the Yellow River has now ceased to flow. I have heard that the Chinese are also building dams on the northern part of our own Irrawaddy River. Because of this, the people who depend on the Irrawaddy will face difficulties, and natural disasters such as drought and lack of rain will increase. I also understand that almost all of the electrical power generated from these projects will be exported to China. What can we do to make those responsible in U Thein Sein’s government understand—and the people know of—the dangers of building dams that will have negative effects on the lives of future generations?
A: Whatever the issue may be, you must use means that will reach the ears of the people if you want them to know about it. We will be releasing a plea to protect the Irrawaddy River. We would also like you to take the responsibility to educate and disseminate news to the people about this issue.
Broadcast on September 2, 2011.