New Internationalist

Aung San Suu Kyi in her own words

From her public address in Burmese at the gates of her residence on 14 November, the day of her release:

Opening words

I have to begin by thanking you for your support. We haven’t seen each other for a long time but I am happy to see that our mutual faith remains strong, it fortifies me. In order to do our work, we must know what the people want – you do know what you want, don’t you? Well it’s fine to know what you want but you must also know how you are going to achieve what you want. I believe that politics must be learned.

I have often said, in my talks with the youth, I don’t believe there is such a thing as good people or bad people, or smart or stupid people. I only believe that there are people who can learn and people who can’t. I believe that we, the people, can learn very well. It’s not enough to know what you want but also to know how to achieve it with integrity. I say this not to patronize, I say from experience that no matter what the goal, if the path is without integrity, it will lose its way and be destroyed.

On courage

Courage is not what some people think, to be up in arms and being a hero. Courage means the resolve to achieve one’s goals. We must have this kind of courage. Go to the movies if you want a hero. Courage is a daily task. Don’t we people have to muster the courage to face each day? We have to use this courage beneficially and effectively for our country.

On democratic power

What is important in a democracy is that the people at the back must be able to keep those who are working in the front, under control. This is democracy. The people, who are the majority, must have the right to keep the rulers, who are the minority, under control. This is democracy. So I will accept it if the people keep me under control. But of course, I do not like it if those, who are not of the people, keep me in control. But then, I only say this in passing.

During the time of my detention I had a lot of interaction with the people who were in charge of my security. They have been good to me. I have to say what the truth is. Since one must show appreciation to those who are deserving, I say with sincerity that I am grateful to those who were in charge of my security. I want the people to be able to have mutual understanding and gratitude.

From the press conference held on 15 November:

On her moral authority

I am a little wary of the expression ‘moral authority’. I hope that what I do for this country is not simply on moral authority. I like to think that I am part of an effective movement. And I would certainly not like to use whatever authority I have, moral or otherwise, to incite people to do what they should not do. I am for national reconciliation. I am for dialogue. And whatever authority I have I would like to use towards that end.

On her treatment by the military regime and reconciliation

Actually, we have to get this straight. They haven’t been treating me, personally, brutally at all. In fact, I have to be honest to say that throughout these years of detention, they have treated me well on a personal basis. They have not acted in accordance with the rule of law and that I shall always fight against. Because I don’t think that any country can survive as a prosperous and dignified nation unless there is rule of law. The people cannot have security unless there is rule of law. So for that I shall always struggle. And I believe that to this day that my detention and the detention of those many prisoners of conscience, are not in accordance with the norms of justice.

But that does not mean that I have been ill-treated personally. During the years of detention I have been treated well. I must – I do – appreciate that on a personal level, but that is not enough. It is not for one person alone that we move towards democracy, it is for all of us. So I don’t see why we can’t be reconciled... Reconciliation means that you recognize that there are differences. If there weren’t any differences there would be no need for reconciliation.

On listening to the people

I want to listen to the people. Unfortunately it is very difficult to listen to the people when they are all shouting at the same time. But I have encouraged people to write to us, to tell us what they feel, what they think ought to be done. Some of the suggestions may be just vague hopes and aspirations. But I think we must listen, I must listen. Well, I’ve listened to the radio for six years. I think I’d like to listen to human voices.

What next?

My next political move? I’ve been moving all the time.

On her sacrifice

I don’t see this as a sacrifice. It’s embarrassing when people say that. I chose this path and I took it. To say that it is a sacrifice is like asking to be indebted. I chose this path and I will face the consequences and I do not expect anyone to be in my debt.

On achieving democracy

The people are my strength – so they must remain strong. I can’t go it alone.  have just said democracy cannot be achieved alone. This is a valuable thing that involves a lot of sacrifice. If it is done alone, it is not democracy. If the people want democracy and want Daw Aung San Suu Kyi to attain it for them, they are not going to attain it. There will only be Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, the dictator. Everyone has to have a hand in it.

Photo: Women's Glib.

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