The 'Value of the Struggle'

In a program aired on April 1, Aung San Suu Kyi says Burma’s military should recreate itself as an army that serves the people, calls on Burma’s government to spend more on education, and asks Burmese living abroad not to be ‘aloof’ from their country’s struggle.

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Q:  I am a former political prisoner, and am now a retired principal of the Prospect Burma School in New Delhi. We formed the Panglong Preservation Coalition Network on Feb. 12, 2011 on the anniversary of Union Day and have begun activities both inside the country and abroad. Because we consider the [Burmese] people to be the guardians of our country, our objective is to make the Burmese Tatmadaw [military] a Tatmadaw that the people can love. We want to help bring about—and preserve as much as we can—a unity among all of the armed groups of our country and re-establish the Union Tatmadaw. We would like your advice as to whether or not to form this group, and whether this kind of endeavor is appropriate.

A:  It is good that work is being done to bring about amicable relations between the people and the Tatmadaw. But the important thing is not to forget that that the people and the members of the Tatmadaw are the same. When we work to achieve human rights and to enjoy the benefits of a democratic system, it is because we would like all of the people—including the Tatmadaw—to enjoy those benefits and rights. If only the Tatmadaw could understand that, there would be no reason for differences to exist between them and the people. But I would like to caution you to be careful and sincere in what you are doing, so that it is not misunderstood or misinterpreted by others.

Q:  Recently in the Arab countries such as Yemen and Libya, government and military leaders have allied themselves with people who have been calling for democracy in those countries. I would like to know if there are leaders like this in the Tatmadaw who would ally themselves with the people.

A:  I would actually like the situation in Burma to be better than it has been in Yemen and in Libya. I would like the Tatmadaw leaders to consider and respect the aspirations of the people and to bring about national reconciliation. I also want changes to occur so that they benefit all the people, including the Tatmadaw, without causing any bloodshed. I have never lost any faith in, or loving-kindness for, the Tatmadaw. And I would like the Tatmadaw to become a military that is loved and depended upon by the people, and that is professional in carrying out its duties in accordance with the principles that were established when it was first formed.

Q:  I am a Burmese national now living in Japan. The United Nations Security Council has passed a resolution to take action, including military action, against the present Libyan government for cruelly attacking and killings its citizens. What should we do to get to the stage where the Security Council will take similar action against the SPDC military junta in Burma?

A:  I think that the resolution passed by the Security Council is appropriate. It could not avoid passing such a resolution while the situation in Libya was leading to civil war, with the Libyan government attacking its own citizens as if they were enemies. With regard to Burma, I would want the Security Council to pass a resolution that would lead to national reconciliation in our country. Since national reconciliation is the only way we will be able to establish genuine peace in the country, it would be good if we can make the members of the Security Council understand that, in the long run, it would be appropriate to encourage such an effort. But this will not be easy. We would have to use various methods to persuade them.

Q:  I would like to ask you how you feel with regard to what is happening in Japan. We, the Burmese people living in Japan, have been thinking of helping in any way that we can.

A:  I think that the resilience, ability, and courage of the Japanese people are greater than the horrifying catastrophe that has happened to them. I feel honored that the Burmese people in Japan are helping out. Although the National League for Democracy (NLD) in Burma is not able to help in material ways, we are going to send poems about the tsunami  to express our sympathy and compassion for the plight of the Japanese people. I also know that the NLD in areas abroad has arranged to establish a fund and send it to Japan.

Q:  With regard to Burma’s education system, there are no opportunities for children to attend school for free in Burma. In other countries, there are a lot of such opportunities. Is there anything you can do to help so that our schools can provide tuition-free schools from the primary level up to middle school, or at least up the fourth standard [grade]?

A:  A country has to have a sufficient amount of funds to be able to establish a tuition-free primary school system. In actual fact, the government of our country has a lot of opportunities to build up a strong treasury—for example, a lot of income has been acquired through the sale of natural gas. I don’t think it would be difficult to set up a tuition-free primary school system if those funds were used in the education system. At the moment, our NLD is doing as much as our funds permit to help needy children and the children of political prisoners.

Q:  I am an assistant editor of Junior magazine, which is published by the Burmese Women’s Union. I heard the speech you gave on International Women’s Day at the women’s seminar which was held at the border. Over two hundred women refugees from along the border attended, and listened to your speech. Afterward, they were so elated that some of them cried and others said how much more hopeful they have become. [Many] have become more politically active. But in the Burmese democracy movement, opportunities for women’s leadership are rare. Can you provide us with ways that women can be given opportunities for leadership roles?

A:  For women to get involved in leadership roles in politics, they must have both strong conviction and an education. If they do not have conviction, they cannot even begin to get involved in politics. And to have conviction, they must understand that politics is linked to their own lives as well as to the lives of their children and families. For them to realize their convictions, it is important for them to have an education. They must also learn from their own experiences and lessons in life.

Q:  I was expelled from Singapore because I was actively involved in Burmese politics. Now I am living in Sydney, Australia. The Burmese people who have left Burma, for whatever reason, and who have now settled abroad seem to be far removed not only from Burmese politics but also from Burmese culture. Some have even completely forgotten the Burmese language.  What should they do about this?

A:  One should think about whether there is something missing in one’s life if one cannot take pride in one’s own mother country—in one’s own roots. Some see Burma as a poor country, out of date or behind the times, and are embarrassed to call Burma their country. They do not seem to understand the satisfaction and value of the struggle to free Burma from the repression that is such a problem in the country. I think that if we can make them appreciate those values, this will change the minds of the people who are keeping themselves aloof from Burma.


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