Q: Recently, two diplomats in the Burmese embassy in Washington—Minister Counselor U Kyaw Win and First Secretary U Soe Aung—applied for political asylum in the United States. U Kyaw Win said that although elections have now been held in Burma, the government of President U Thein Sein has shown no sign of wanting to bring about democracy in the country, and that he has therefore lost all trust in the government. What do you think of the fact that Burmese diplomats are seeking political asylum in other countries?
A: I do not have any comment on what U Kyaw Win has done in accordance with his own belief. But I have not heard of diplomats from democratic countries applying for political asylum in other countries. If Burma becomes a genuinely democratic country, I don’t think that our diplomats will apply for political asylum elsewhere.
Q: Your recent trip to Pagan/Nyaung U was the first trip you have taken in about seven or eight years, including the time you were under house arrest. What are your feelings with regard to that trip? Is there anything you would like to tell us about it?
A: The main thing I saw during my trip to Pagan/Nyaung U is that the people living in the dry zone of the country have to work tirelessly to struggle for their existence. I also learned how necessary it is to make that area green and fertile. Since I have already given a press conference with regard to the religious purpose of my trip to Pagan/Nyaung U, I think that you have already heard about that. Later, I intend to write an article about the visit.
Q: I am involved in looking after Kachin refugees on the China border. Due to the fighting that has been going on along the border since June 9, many refugees have fled and have not been able to return to their homes and villages. Many Kachins who now live abroad are helping as much as they can to support those refugees, and have even made appeals to the United Nations for help, but if this situation continues much longer, there will be little more that we can do.
A: It is heartbreaking to hear about the problems of the refugees who have had to flee from the Kachin State. Based on what you have told me, I will tell the appropriate organizations and people as soon as possible to make the situation better for the refugees. I am very pleased and happy to hear that the Kachins who are now living abroad have not forgotten their compatriots who are left behind, and that they are helping those who are facing difficulties.
Q: I am a Shan woman now living in Thailand. When President U Thein Sein came to power in Burma, he said that he would establish a democratic government and bring about reconciliation in the country. But in practice, this is not happening. At present, fighting is continuously going on in the Shan and Kachin States and other ethnic nationality areas. The people are facing a huge problem in those areas, and many refugees are now hiding in the forests. Are U Thein Sein or the people behind him responsible for this situation?
A: Since I do not know the internal matters of the present government, I cannot say how decisions are made or by whom. What I can say is that whoever makes those decisions, those decisions must not have an adverse effect on the people. From the time that we gained our independence, the flames of war in our country have never been fully extinguished. And without peace, a country can never really achieve progress and development. This is why the National League for Democracy has called for Burma’s internal conflicts to be resolved through political means.
Q: Now that U Thein Sein has completed 100 days in power, there have been quite a few criticisms of his government. Do you think it would be more appropriate to give his government more time, and to wait before further criticisms are made? Also, following your release, we have seen that the organizational strength of the NLD and its status in the eyes of the international community have greatly improved. If you embark on a tour of the country, could this create a clash with the government and jeopardize the gains that have been made?
A: Governments must be prepared at all times to accept criticism. It is a principle of democracy that a government be able to face criticism from abroad or from within the country, whether it is during the first 100 days, 10 days, or 1000 days. And the government, too, has the right to defend itself, doesn’t it? I think that I have the right to travel as part of my duty as a politician. It is not because I want to clash with anybody. That is why I have asked to meet and coordinate with the Minister for Home Affairs, General Ko Ko.
Q: You are a leader who represents all of the people of Burma. But I think that our people need someone like you who can succeed you in that role—someone who can lead with compassion and who is attuned not only to important political issues but also to our relations with the world, and who can provide leadership in matters relating to national reconciliation. Do you and the NLD have plans to introduce to our people the new leaders you expect to emerge in the future?
A: Leaders who are accepted by the people cannot be appointed through a system of succession by any organization. We aim to bring out not just one leader but many leaders from among the young and middle-aged generations by developing their abilities and supporting them. And they themselves should become educated and knowledgeable and develop a sense of responsibility and perseverance. Society can only assist them in their efforts to become leaders.
Program broadcast in Burmese on July 22, 2011.