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ASSK speech to Japan press assn.

Mainichi Daily News, Tuesday, October 15, 1996


This is a transcript of a videotaped address presented by Aung San Suu Kyi
to the Mainichi Newspapers on the occasion of the conferring of the Japanese
Newspapers Publishers and Editors Association Award in Fukuoka Prefecture on

	It's a pleasure to be able to address the Japan Newspaper Publishers and
Editors Association on this happy occasion.
	That the association has given its award for this year to the Mainichi
Shimbun for carrying the series "Letter from Burma" is a matter of much joy
and pride for me.  I understand that by publishing the series the Mainichi
Shimbun has created a new role for newspapers by giving an opportunity for
those who do not enjoy freedom of expression to freely express their opinions.
	The series "Letter from Burma" has certainly enabled me to let the people
of Japan and other countries know about what is going on in our country
today.  In a message to the readers of the Mainichi Shimbun, prior to the
publication of the series, I explained that, as a politician, I will be
writing mainly about politics.  But politics for me is about people; it
wears a very human face.  Therefore, social and cultural aspects of my
country also feature large in my series.  I'm very privileged to be able to
write of matters that are close to the hearts of many of my countrymen and
women and to speak for them, for they are not free to speak for themselves.
	In Burma today, there are only three daily newspapers -- all of them merely
serving as propaganda organs for the military government.  Everything that
is published in the country is subjected to severe censorship.  My party,
the National League for Democracy, has been denied a publication license
since July 1990, two months after our victory in the elections.  This means
that we cannot bring out a party newsletter.  We cannot even print a party
	Freedom of expression is a fundamental safeguard of democratic rights.  We
need to be able to express our hopes and aspirations, our fears and our
dissatisfactions.  Unless we are able to freely protest against
infringements on our democratic rights, these rights will rapidly be eluded.
Unless we are allowed to discuss openly the problems of our country, these
problems can never be satisfactorily resolved.
	Burma today is a totally closed political society.  The military government
claims that it is heading toward multiparty democracy.  The United Nations
General Assembly has, in successive resolutions on Burma, called for an
early return to democracy in line with the will of the people as expressed
in the elections of 1990.  It has also called for the full participation of
the people in the political life of Burma.
	Yet political parties are prevented from functioning meaningfully.  And
there is no democratic process in which the people can participate.  The
international media play a very special part in a country like Burma where
there is no freedom of expression, because there is also no freedom of
information.  Our people are forced to rely on foreign radio stations to
learn not only about what is going on in the world around them but also
about what is going on in our own country.  Independent newspapers, radio
and television stations play a crucial roles in opening the doors of the
closed political society.
	I hope that through my letters from Burma, I have been able to make people
in different parts of the world understand our situation better.  It is
difficult for those who live in democratic societies to understand how it is
to live in an environment where independence of thought is treated as a
crime.  The things that are generally not visible to casual visitors often
constitute great trials for those of us who have to cope with these matters
every day.
	The greatest trial for the people in Burma is the lack of an independent
judicial system that ensures protection under the law.  Those who dare to
hold opinions different from those of the powers that be are considered
guilty and not given an opportunity to prove their innocence.  To exercise
the basic human rights of freedom of thought, speech and association
requires courage and commitment.  We have learned through bitter experience
the price of freedom of expression.
	A large part of our struggle for democracy in Burma is concerned with
asserting our right to freedom of expression.  What we need is not just
freedom of speech but freedom after speech.  Our people have been condemned
to long terms in prison for speaking the truth.  There cannot be many
countries in the world today where men are deprived of their liberty for
seven years or more simply for pointing out that many dry season rice
projects have failed.
	Recently, a young Buddhist monk was sentenced to seven years imprisonment
for holding up a small handmade signboard in which he had written that the
military regime should start a dialogue with the National League for Democracy.
	In Burma, such tools of the modern communication system as photocopiers,
fax machines and satellite dishes require a government license.  In a world
increasingly bound together as a result of the technological revolution, we
remain an isolated society stranded on the edges of modern development.
	I would like to express my sincere appreciation to the Mainichi Shimbun, to
the Japanese Newspaper Publishers and Editors Association and to members of
the international media, who have made special efforts to focus attention on
the Burmese situation.  I am confident that through the efforts of our
people and our sympathizers everywhere, we shall be able to break through
the barriers that keep us apart from the rest of the world.
	The human predilection for freedom of expression and communication will
surely triumph over all our obstacles.  And this triumph will be due in no
small measure to the work of newsmen and women of integrity who helped to
keep alive the conscience of the world.