'A Revolution of the Spirit'

In a program broadcast on Jan. 7, Aung San Suu Kyi discusses Burma’s ethnic nationalities, calls for transparency in how Burma’s military rulers spend money raised in taxes, and insists on nonviolence in the struggle for change.

2011.01.14
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Q:  I have been working to the best of my ability for democracy in Burma from France. There are a lot of people from Europe traveling to Burma for pleasure. Similarly, people from Burma are traveling to Europe on package tours arranged by tourist agencies. I would like to know your views with regard to the tourist industry in 2011.

A:  It gives me great pleasure to hear that people like you who are living abroad are doing their very best for democracy in our country. With regard to the issue of tourism, we are considering and discussing what kinds of tourists should be encouraged and what kinds of tourists should be discouraged. Once we have found a solution to this issue, we will let everyone know what the answer is.

Q:  January 5 is the [ethnic group] Karen New Year’s Day, and I would like to suggest that you wear the Karen national dress that was presented to you by Karen leaders when you go to your office. And while at work, if you meet guests while wearing the Karen national dress, I think that would certainly contribute toward bringing in support from the Karen people. If you did this also with other national costumes, this would show respect for the ethnic nationalities and would bring in support from them as well.

A:  I have [already] planned to wear the Karen National Costume on that day and to eat the Karen Talabaw dish [an ethnic dish]. Similarly, on the special days of other ethnic nationalities, I plan to wear their respective national costumes and support their traditional customs and practices as much as possible. I thank you for your suggestion.

Q:  I am from Mandalay [Burma’s second-largest city]. Winston Churchill once said that “Attitude is a little thing that makes a big difference.” Following on this, we need to change the attitudes both of the ruling class and of those being ruled if we want to develop our country. How can the attitudes of the people be changed?

A:  I have said before that real and genuine revolution is, in fact, a revolution of the spirit. Only when one can change the spirit will one really be able to change the country. But in order to change one’s spirit or attitude, one needs practice. You must have the desire or the will to practice, as well. According to the four principles of success [according to Buddhist philosophy], one must have the will, the effort, the spirit or attitude, and the knowledge to achieve success. So first one must accept the fact that there is a need for change.  I think that one can only work toward change based on the desire or the will to change.

Q:  I have been working in Malaysia now for about four years. I will work forever for the truth with strong belief, courage, and unswerving determination. Some of the people who desire democracy and human rights are suffering from being held as political prisoners.  What can you do to obtain their release?

A:  We are single-mindedly working for the release of the political prisoners. We will constantly work to let the whole world know and accept the fact that only when our country’s political prisoners are released, and only when everyone can participate in the political process of our country, will the country be developed in a truly healthy, prosperous, and steadfast manner. I would like to ask you to continue working to help us as much as you can.

Q:  Greetings. I am married to a Japanese person and have been living in Japan for a number of years. Just like me, many of the Burmese people who live abroad have to pay 10 percent of our income each month in tax to the Burmese government, as well as paying income tax to the governments of the countries in which we live. If we don’t pay income tax to the Burmese government, the Burmese embassy concerned will not renew our passports. Is this appropriate? Also, I would like to know where the present military government should apply these taxes in order to effectively benefit the people.

A:  There are rules and regulations in many countries to prevent this double taxation. But since our country does not have such rules and regulations, Burmese people living abroad are faced with having to pay income taxes in countries where they live as well as to our country. To know whether the money collected in taxes is used in a proper manner for the benefit of the people, we must have a transparent and responsible administrative system.

Q:  In our country, we have practiced Mahatma Gandhi’s and Martin Luther King Jr.’s nonviolent and peaceful methods for over 20 years without success. Is this because of weakness in our efforts or because the nonviolent methods we are using are not right—just as if we were using the wrong medication to cure an ailment? If future generations criticize our generation as being weak and irresponsible, how should we respond to such criticism?

A:  The struggle for independence in India and the struggle for full and equal rights for black people in the United States both took several decades. That is why I say that it takes a lot of time when nonviolent methods are used. One needs resilience and courage. I think that we must continue to work unwaveringly with conviction.

The reason that this is taking so long may be because of some errors on our part. That is why we must constantly review our efforts. What have we done? Have we done things in the right way? We have to constantly analyze and review all of this. We have to understand that what we are doing is not for ourselves and for success in our time, but for future generations. So we will have to keep on working patiently and steadfastly. If one does what one needs to do during his own time, future generations will not say that we did not do our duty. They will only say that because we did our duty, their future can only be better.

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