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CBC Interview with Suu Kyi
- Subject: CBC Interview with Suu Kyi
- From: cfob@xxxxxxxxxxx
- Date: Sat, 23 Dec 1995 12:16:00
Hi all! The following is a special report that was aired on Sunday on CBC
Radio (Canada's national radio station)..thought it would be good to share
it with everyone. Happy New Year in advance from all of us here, let's hope
1996 brings change to Burma.
CANADIAN FRIENDS OF BURMA
(National Office) tel: 613 237-8056
145 Spruce Street, Suite 206 fax: 613 563-0017
Ottawa, Ontario K1R 6P1 email: cfob@xxxxxxxxxxx
"We must persevere in the struggle...and learn to liberate our
minds from apathy and fear." - Aung San Suu Kyi
Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) Radio
Report aired on Dec. 17, 1995 on CBC's "Sunday Morning Report"
by Dick Gordon in Rangoon.
At the ancient shrine of Rangoon's Buddhists, amid the silver
towers and golden steeples of the Shwedagon Pagoda, pilgrims from
across this land come to pray. Local astrologers guide the
people to different statues. The white marble Buddhas draped in
petals of purple orchids, washed with the holy water from the
apprentice priests. For nearly 2000 years, the people have come
here in search of serenity and peace.
Now there is another place where the people are gathering for
sustenance of another sort. The sidewalks outside of 54
University Drive. Every Saturday and Sunday afternoon people
come by the thousands. They spread newspaper to sit on the hot
pavement and settle in.
Vendors step lightly through the crowd selling lime slices on
sticks sprinkled with red pepper. It's a time to smoke and talk.
Everybody here calls this place by the same name, not 54
University Drive. Certainly not Aung San Suu Kyi's home. The
mere mention of her name's been enough to get people arrested.
Instead they come to The Lady's House. We're going to The Lady's
House, they say, or I'll meet you at The Lady's House.
Anticipation is in the air. Everyone's watching the high-
painted metal gate. It's at this point a man in the crowd edges
himself close enough to whisper something.
UNIDENTIFIED: I'll meet you in front of the....
GORDON: Meet me in front of the Strand Hotel, he says. It's a
big downtown hotel where foreigners on street corners don't
attract a lot of attention. He leans and speaks looking in
UNIDENTIFIED: Meet me in front of the Strand Hotel.
GORDON: And you'll see me?
UNIDENTIFIED: I'll see you, I'll meet you there.
GORDON: Then the man turns back to the metal gate and joins in
the clapping as The Lady, Aung San Suu Kyi, steps into view.
Suu Kyi looks out at the people who have gathered.
Aung San Suu Kyi: (speaking in Burmese)....
GORDON: After joking with the crowd she starts reading from a
sheet of paper in her hand, letters, she says, that people send
AUNG SAN SUU KYI: (Speaking in Burmese)...
(then talking with Gordon)
One of the letters that I read out was from somebody in a
Sasalak (?) township saying that the price of rice water...do you
know what rice water is?
GORDON: No, I don't
SUU KYI: It's...well, there are two ways of cooking rice.
The healthy way really is to cook it so it absorbs all the water,
but I'm afraid a lot of Burmese people still cook it in the
unhealthy way, which is to boil it in a lot of water and then
pour out the water. Now that water which is poured out is called
rice water. In some very extravagant households they will just
throw that water away, but in most sensible householders they
drink that water as well.
Now apparently in the Sasalak township of (inaudible), they
have been selling this water, what you call rice water, for those
who can't afford to ear rice. Now, when I was first told about
it, about a month ago, the price of each bottle of rice water, I
suppose it's about a pint bottle, was two kyats. Then this
letter came off to me, saying one bottle of rice water costs
three kyats. And then somebody in the crowd said no no it's five
kyats now. So, how's that for inflation. Inflation is
absolutely terrible. People in Burma, people from a country
which used to be the world's biggest exporter of rice, if people
in Burma, and not people very far from the capital, are having to
live on rice water, and the price of rice water has gone up from
two kyats last month, or five kyats this month, that tells us
about both development and inflation.
GORDON: It is the attention to simple, practical issues like
rice water, rather than political rhetoric, which endures Suu Kyi
to her followers. But there is another sound, competing with the
cheers of the people.
BRIGADIER GENERAL DAVID ABEL (Government Minister in Charge of
National Planning and Economic Development): Well, you know, when
we came to government in 1988 the economy was in very bad shape.
GORDON: The government minister in charge of national planning
and economic development is Brigadier Gen. David Abel. He likes
to talk about all the hotels, and plazas and shopping centres
currently under construction.
ABEL: ...with investments and you know, with a prudent, sound
policy we have managed to come all along this way now. Never in
the post-independence history of Myanmar, the post-war history of
Myanmar, has Myanmar ever achieved this economic growth. Never.
Suu Kyi: There have been economic opportunities, but these
opportunities are limited to those who have the right, shall we
put it, contacts. Bur the majority of the people, their lives
have not improved.
Now, if you consider that the pay of policemen starts at
around 670 kyats a month, and that is costs more than that to
feed a family of four for a week, you can see that things are not
going well in this country.
GORDON: Suu Kyi, meanwhile, is pushing hard to persuade
foreign investors to stay away. The military leaders depend on
that money from abroad for their grand capital products. Suu Kyi
knows that and she thinks her campaign is working. The Brigadier
General thinks it's funny.
ABEL: You know, that's a joke. Money, it motivates man.
Even if you are in the grave. You show a dollar, a ten dollar
bill over the grave, it moves. You show a hundred dollar bill
over the grave, one hand will come up. If you show one thousand
dollar bill over the grave the fellow will get up and say I'll
walk with you. So, I think, you know, this type of thing
is...it's motivation. I mean, when they can do good business
here, they can do...they can do business, they can make money. I
think the businessmen, the investors, they're motivated to make
money, either for themselves or for their shareholders. That's
their responsibility. So, if they can make money, why not? The
are not worried about what the politicians say because today they
might be on the phone, tomorrow they might be on the ground, you
SUU KYI: Do you not consider that a very telling comment?
That he thinks everybody can be bought with money. Is that not a
very telling comment on the kind of society, on the kind of
community in which he lives?
GORDON: But it's obviously a measure by which he gauges his
SUU KYI: That's not what everybody is like, you see. It is
very disturbing that the authorities should be surrounded by
people who will do anything for money, and that they themselves
should believe that money can buy anything. That would show a
gross lack of principles. But there are many people in Burma who
have sacrificed not just their wealth, but their liberty and
their lives for what they believe in, and I think it's these
people who will lead Burma to happier times.
ABEL: It doesn't worry me what the world says, as long as the
grassroots people, they are happy, that they are having a better
life, a good quality of life. I don't worry about the rest.
SUU KYI: And the fact that they say they don't care, shows
exactly why they are so bad for the country. A government should
care, a government that does not care, either about the opinion
of the people or of international...of the opinions of the
international community, is badly out of sync with the rest of
the world. This is not a time when we can live isolated. You
know, now man can be an island onto himself in this day and age.
And for me the most important thing is opinion of the people.
And the majority of the people of Burma are solidly behind the
cause for democracy.
Yes, they are very frightened. They have been badly
intimidated. So many people have been flung into prison for so
many different reasons.
GORDON: Yet one of these people has asked for a secret rendez-
vous. A meeting outside the Strand Hotel. Soon enough a voice
by my right shoulder says, you better follow me. For the next 15
minutes, I'm walking behind a man through the back streets of
Rangoon, stepping over the open sewers, past the beggars.
Eventually, deep inside one of the city's cafes. The owner puts
Pepsis and cigarettes on the table and stands by the door. The
man I followed, who asks not to be named says he's a local
organizer for the National League for Democracy. He does not
have a Nobel Peace Prize for protection.
UNIDENTIFIED: Ho ho, it's very difficult....very difficult. At
present, you see, I take you to this place, you see, we have...
security here, see I mean, and privacy, and we can talk freely
GORDON: Is there anyone, are there people in Rangoon that you
can trust? Is it difficult?
UNIDENTIFIED: Oh very difficult, because you see even among
our...fellow members, you see, are not reliable you see.
GORDON: Can you explain for me how it is that the people who are
running this country have created such fear among the people?
UNIDENTIFIED: By means of terrorism, when they ask for democracy
you see. There's a big danger.
GORDON: My companion, it turns out, wants to pass along a
message. Please, he says, help get the United Nations to mediate
between the military leaders and Aung San Suu Kyi.
UNIDENTIFIED: Mediation, you see, the UN can help our country,
you see, can mediate between two groups, you see. That is the
only hope I have.
GORDON: My companion does not want to talk for a long time.
He's worried we'll be seen. He's also anxious to say how
important he feels Aung San Suu Kyi is to the democratic cause in
UNIDENTIFIED: We trust her, very much. She has a very, I mean,
clear conviction about how people are suffering in this country.
GORDON: Do you worry about her, do you worry that...?
UNIDENTIFIED: Of course, really I'm worried about her. I trust
GORDON: What would happen if something happened to her?
UNIDENTIFIED: Oh, it's unthinkable, you see.
SUU KYI: It's...what I feel uncomfortable about is the fact that
a personality cult might grow up around me. I think that is not
healthy for democratic politics. But on the other hand, one has
to be practical, and we recognize the fact that at certain times
during...in the course of the struggle, it is good to have one
person on whom the world can focus. That does a lot for our
cause. So we have to find a healthy balance.
GORDON: Do you think there comes a time when a people has been
beaten and intimidated and frightened by its own government for
so long that it loses the will or the energy to take up anything
in a political battle?
Suu Kyi: I don't think so. When you consider the countries of
Eastern Europe, which were so much more oppressed than we were
for so much longer, they did not lose this concept of freedom and
of innate dignity. I think there is something in us that tells
us that we have a right to lead secure, dignified lives. And I
think that will always assert itself.
GORDON: It is a curious time for the people of Burma, the people
of Myanmar. After six years under house arrest, their Lady is
speaking out. The military leaders are hoping such a gesture
will ease their acceptance internationally as a legitimate
government. And yet her voice remains the clearest and most
consistent condemnation of the legitimacy of the generals.
If democracy comes to this country, if Myanmar once again
becomes Burma, it may come from the private prayers of the
pilgrims here, but it will happen at that other address, the one
of University Drive; the Lady's House.