'Establish a Network for Democracy'

In a program broadcast on Jan. 21, Aung San Suu Kyi discusses Burma's new national service law, encourages participation in opposition youth networks, and looks forward to the return of Burmese political refugees now living abroad.

2011.01.31
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Q:  I have been in the United States for about a month now after living for five years in a refugee camp on the Thai/Burma border. I have learnt from the news that [Burma's] military government has issued a law requiring all persons of age to be inducted into the military for national service. Although I am not personally affected by this law, I am concerned that my brother and sister citizens would be faced with a very difficult life because of it. Therefore, I would like to know what you think of this law.

A:  This compulsory national service law is a big concern for the youth of Burma as well as for their families. It is my view and that of the National League for Democracy (NLD) that it is necessary not only to consider carefully whether or not such a law should be issued, but also to explain the law to the people so that they will understand what it means. Also, their response to the law must be taken into consideration before the law is issued.

Q:  I am from Japan ... I would like to know whether you and the NLD, in addition to using the NLD legal assistance group to help those who are tried in [Burma's] courts, would consider conducting short-term courses on the rule of law to young people of all trades. Additionally, I would like to point out that whenever you have been detained in the past, the work of the NLD is delayed, and the country's movement toward democracy has slowed down. Are plans being made to prevent these hindrances from occurring if you are detained again in the future?

A:  Our NLD has a high regard for the rule of law, and this is why we conduct courses and seminars on legal matters. Recently, we have heard a lot of people say that they want to know more about the law. We also heard a lot of this kind of sentiment at the meeting on the 28th with youth who are not from the NLD. That is why we are planning to increase courses and seminars on matters related to the law.

With regard to the question on how NLD activities can continue if I am detained again, I would like to say that the best way is to give courses on how everyone can work according to their own situation and to the best of their own abilities. You cannot ask someone to do things in a particular way for a particular situation and then ask them to do that by heart. We are trying to help people think carefully and properly in any situation, consider what the appropriate action should be, and then do it.

Q:  We, the young people living abroad, are a bit confused with regard to the youth network. We have read that Ko Myo Yan Naung Thein [a student leader] has established a national youth network under your guidance and leadership. At the same time, we have read that the NLD youth have established a separate youth network amongst like-minded young people who are working on activities together. Who should we be communicating with? [The caller is from Maryland.]

A:  The idea here is for people to build a strong network by communicating with each other on the basis of common objectives and practical work. When you communicate with the youth groups in Burma, you should contact them on the basis of shared objectives and activities, whether or not they are connected to the NLD. And you should not prevent yourselves from contacting groups just because you have already established contacts with others. It does not matter if you have only a
few such contacts or a lot-the important thing is to establish a strong network for the benefit of democracy. Many small youth groups have now emerged, so there are a lot of groups one can get in touch with.

Q:  I live in Fort Wayne, Indiana, where there are about 7,000 Burmese people. Beginning in 2004, I have organized festivals at Perdue University every year on your birthday to inform people about your efforts for democracy in Burma. Since I have been assisting in educating about 1,600 Burmese children in this city, children whose knowledge of Burma is limited or not particularly extensive or in-depth, I would like you to say a few words to them as well as to their parents. Thank you!

A:  I put a lot of emphasis on the education of young people, and I thank you for organizing an educational festival every year on my birthday. I very much respect and honor your work in helping to develop education. I would like the Burmese children to understand that it does not matter why they have come to live in the United States, and that they will become better persons if they can value their own cultural heritage. Please tell them not to discard their roots. I would ask the parents to teach their children to understand other cultures with an open mind as well. I would like the parents to nurture their children so that they can be of value not only for one country, but for all of humankind.

Q:  I live in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. [The caller is a Karen ethnic national.] Although we have sought political refuge abroad, we would like to return to Burma but are afraid of being arrested if we do so. There are a lot of Burmese who cannot go back to Burma because they have become involved in the Burmese democracy movement after seeking refuge abroad. Under what circumstances will it be possible for Burmese political refugees abroad to return to their homeland?

A:  I would say that in reality this will be possible only when there are sufficient political guarantees for them to do so. We are trying our best to create, as quickly as we can, a situation in which our fellow citizens abroad, wherever they are, can return to Burma whenever they want to—happily, in a trusting manner, and with a sense of security.

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