June 17, 2002

Q: “It has been about six weeks since your release from house arrest, but talks between you and the military have not yet resumed. Why is that?”
A: “I don’t think you can say that the talks between us and the military have not yet resumed. I think what you could say is that dialogue has not yet started, because when I was released I said that the confidence building phase has come to an end.
I think I would like to explain that a little bit because some people have asked me whether that means that there is now 100% confidence between us. I didn’t quite mean it in this way. What we mean is that confidence building is not something that can go on forever. If it goes on forever then it becomes counterproductive. It means that there is no confidence, so I think you have to say at one stage that confidence building is at an end, and you have to show by more action, or by different action, that you have moved on to a more significant phase, and this significant phase should mean serious political dialogue. We have not yet started that.
I have been free for more than a month so some people may think that that is long enough and we certainly think that is long enough. But others may think that that is not quite long enough yet.”
Q: “Would you say that you have any concern about the pace of this process?”
A: “Of course, because I think the more we drag it out the worse for our country and people. There is so much that needs to be done and there’s so much that can be done, once the real process of reconciliation and co-operation has begun.”
Q: “It is very difficult for people outside Burma and, I suppose, governments particularly, to understand exactly what is happening inside Rangoon, inside this country. How do you think the international community can judge whether the military here is genuine about political reform?”
A: “I think we’ll tell you.”
Q: “Well I’m thinking about, for example, the release of political prisoners.”
A: “Yes, we have been very concerned about that of course because it has been slow, the rate has been very, very slow. But I think that on the whole, once serious political dialogue has begun and we are able to say that yes we are getting down to discussing really substantive matters, then the international community can assume that we have achieved genuine progress along the road to real democratisation.”
Q: “Given that the international community tends to look to you for guidance – with regard to the NLD’s policy on sanctions and boycotts – what is the current position?”
A: “We have said that we have not changed in matters of policy, that we will not change in matters of policy until such time as dialogue has begun.”
Q: “So the position is the same?”
A: “The position remains the same.”
Q: “Many people think that your release, and some of the release of political prisoners, and even the process of the talks themselves, are largely to do with the state of the economy and that the military is worried about the state of the economy. Obviously this has an impact on ordinary Burmese people. What would you say are the most pressing problems for the people of Burma at the moment?”
A: “The state of the economy of course, but when we think of the state of the economy we don’t think in terms of GNP and GDP, we are not thinking in terms of money flow and things like that. We are thinking in terms of the effect on everyday lives of people. The way the situation and the economy affects the health of people, the education of our young people, that is what we are thinking of.
We are not out to boast that there is so much percentage of growth per year. That is not our concern. Our real concern is how it affects the lives of people. How it affects the future of our country.”
Q: “What sort of help would you want from the international community to help the ordinary Burmese people?”
A: “The situation has to be right of course to help the people of the country, but mainly whatever help we may want from the international community now or in the future, we want to make sure that this help is tailored to help our people to help themselves.
We want to empower our people; we want to strengthen them; we want to provide them with the kind of qualifications that will enable them to build up their own country themselves.
I don’t want Burma to be a basket case forever. I want to empower the people. I want the kind of help that will empower them.”
Q: “Do you think that the international community, and I’m thinking particularly of the European Union and the United States, has basically the right approach at the moment?”
A: “I think they have been on the right track up to now and they have been very supportive of the movement for democracy. Of course we always think that everybody can do a little bit more, if not a lot more.”
Q: “Could you say what that little bit more might be?”
A: “A more active interest in what is happening. A better understanding of conditions in Burma and the recognition of the need to change when there’s a need for change. To be flexible but to be also quick with their responses because sometimes speed is of the essence.”
Q: “And from your previous answer you gave you are saying that the guidance should be coming from you in terms of issues such as sanctions and boycotts?”
A: “Well, sanctions and boycotts would be tied to, it is a policy matter and this would be tied to serious political dialogue and as I said, that once serious political dialogue has begun, I think it can be assumed that there has been genuine progress and of course then we must reconsider our old policies.”
Q: “You left Rangoon this weekend for the first time in two years. The first time freely since 1995. How was your trip, you went between Mon state and Karen State? What was it like?”
A: “I enjoyed it very much, and I saw many aspects of the country which I needed to see in order that I might know what we need to do, and I had an opportunity to meet some members of the public, which I have been doing in Rangoon too. It was very educational for me. I learned a lot about what the people are hoping for, what they are needing.”
Q: “Were you surprised by anything that you saw, or by anything that people told you?”
A: “I was surprised largely by the response of young people because the young people I met among the public are not what we would call the 1988 generation, they are younger. There is a perception that the younger generation, those younger than the 1988 generation, are not interested in politics and that they are only concerned with doing well for themselves economically, but I did not see that. I was very touched, very pleased and at the same time rather saddened by how sensitive the young people are to the need to build up a future for them and for their generation.”
Q: “Lastly, how hopeful are you that there will be significant political change within the next year or so?”
A: “I am very hopeful that there will be significant political change. I am glad you said within the next year or so because I would not like to put too definite a time frame with regard to political change. You know that politics is fairly unpredictable, if not very unpredictable.
But I would like change to come as quickly as possible because there is so much that we need to do for our country. I don’t think that we can afford to wait. Personally, I don’t think we can even afford to wait another day. Because every day that we wait for change means one day lost for us in efforts to rebuild our country.”
Q: “Thank you very much.”

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