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Aung San Suu Kyi on October 28th 19

Subject: Aung San Suu Kyi on October 28th 1996: ?Spirit is stronger than the gun?

Aung San Suu Kyi on October 28th 1996

'Spirit is stronger than the gun'

by Joop Holthausen
in Burma
Published on October 31st, 1996 in 'Het Parool', a Dutch daily newspaper, 
front page. Translation BCN

RANGOON - "De spirit is stronger than the gun. Whatever actions the military 
take: I will continue to strive for the restoration of democracy. The more 
difficult they make it, the harder we will fight to achieve our goal." 
Aung San Suu Kyi, winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, considered state-enemy 
number one by the Burmese junta, show not a trace of fear. Soldiers have put 
up barricades around her house. The 51-year old oppositionleader is kept 
under close watch bot hday and night. But Suu Kyi cannot be broken by the 
intimidations, just as the six years of house-arrest did not.
The junta would love to throw Suu Kyi into one of the dungeons of the 
infamous Insein prison. But the woman who is gets much attention of the 
international community, can not just be put in shackels. Ze beams 
selfconfidence and charisma when I speak with her for an interview.
The recent arrest of the vice-chairman of your partij, U Kyi Maung, was the 
next in a long series. Apparently, the junta does everything it can to 
isolate you.
"As long as there are people in this country who are not behind bars, the 
places of those who are arrested will be taken by others. The result of the 
elections in 1990, that have not been respected by the military junta, 
proved that the people are on our side. U Kyi Maung has been arrested, 
because the military accused him of complicity with the recent 
studentdemonstrations. But neither our party, nor U Kyi Maung have anything 
to do with it. And because of that, the junta had to let him go free.
For the first since 1990 students have protested so massively against the 
regime. What is behind those demonstraties?
"Those demonstrations are a voice of dissatifaction in the country. Our view 
has always been that differences of opinion have to be solved by 
negotiations, not by repression.
Is there a danger that the demonstrations will result in a bloodbath like in 
1988, when thousands of youth were shot by the military?
"Those in power, are responsible for the bloodbath. It is now a different 
situation that in 1988. Then there were no well-structured political parties 
in which people could struggle for their opinion. They  went onto the 
streets, because there was no alternative. That is why I find it very 
dangerous that teh current rulers try to repress democratic parties such as 
teh National Laegue for Democracy (NLD)."
"We are an organisation that can strike a bridge between the people and the 
authorities, because we do not encourage violence. If you stop democratic 
movements from growing, there is a danger that the people start an uprise. 
People should be able to voice their opinions, their feelings, their hope 
and their anger.

 (Continued on page 4)

Suu Kyi: EU should take stronger measures

(continued from page 1)

It was not easy to arrange the interview with Aung San Suu Kyi. I had given 
up all hope of being able to gain contact with her, when, barely two hours 
before I had to leave Rangoon, the telephone rang in my hotelroom. She had 
been isolated from the rest of the world. Her telephone had been cut and on 
University Avenue grim soldiers were blocking everybody from coming within 
one kilometre of the house of 'the lady'.
Not one Burmese would try that without persmission by the junta, because 
openly sympathising with the oppositionleader has gotten many a person into 
Being a foreigner the risc was within limits. Even so, the military consider 
visiting the lady the same as meddling in internal affairs which can result 
in deportation. Until now the not one visitor of Aung San Suu Kyi has been 
detained. I tested - several days before the telephon call - whether the 
military would leave me alone. But within ten meters after passing the 
barricade, a sergeant called out to me with a loud voice. "Stop sir!" he 
shouted and grabbed my coat. The house of Aung San Suu Kyi seemed as 
unreachable here in Rangoon as it did from Amsterdam.
The unexpected phone call brought change to the matter. The taxi-driver that 
raced me to University Avenue refused to stop in front of her house. "That 
is too dangerous. I might be arrested," he excused himself.
At the gate I was waited upon by a assistant and I had to register myself 
with the military on surveillance, as has everybody who visits her. The lady 
received me in a neat room, dominated by a painted portrait of her father, 
Aung San, who even by the military is considered to be the father of the 
country. Are Burma's problems political or economical? I asked her. Suu Kyi: 
"To my firm opinion it is a mistake to separate those two things. Politics 
and economy cannot be seperated. The economical problems come forth from 
political ignorance. Without democratic freedom you can not build a healthy 
economyt. The present political system has resolted in a devastated economy. 
In many aspects it is worse now than it was eight years ago, when these 
generals took over from their predesecors. In 1988 there was a lot of 
despair, but then verybody in the country was poor. Now there is a small 
group of priviliged that consist of the military rulers and their friends. 
That group bathes in luxury, whereas the rest of the population withers away 
in deep misery."
In 1989 you came from Great Britain to take care of your sick mother. But, 
being the daughter of Aung San Suu Kyi, you were quickly seen as a symbol 
for a democratic future. You chose for your people. But the price you had to 
pay is high. You haev lived seperated from your husband and twos sons.
"I am not the only in this country who lives separated from their family. 
And even if I long for my relatives, there are people who have more reasons 
to complain than I have. Thos who are in prison are worried about the safety 
of theor families. That is not the case with me. My husband and children 
liver in a democratic state.
In the state controlled press that constantly ridicules you, you are no 
langer adressed as Aung San Suu Kyi, but as mrs Michael Aris.
"They can try and put a foreign label on me becuase I am married to a 
Britton. I am not disturbed by that. For the majority of Burmese it is 
unimportant how the state-media adres me.
The junta hs never frightened you, in spite of all threats and pesterings.
"Fear is a bad advisor. It does not solve anything. Fear only complicates 
life. I take it as it comes."
U strife, as did political leaders like Gandhi in India and Mandela in South 
Africa, for a peaceful solution. But you have been working on that already 
for eight year and there seems to be little perspective.
"Eight years is not such a log time if you consider the development of a 
country. It took half a century for the countries in the Easternblock were 
liberated from communism. But for a human, eight years is a long time. That 
is why we should try ourt best to bring about the democratisations proces."
There are many critcs who say that non-governemental organisations and 
international organisations such as the UN are giving legitimacy to SLORC by 
being here. What do you think?
"We are not opposed to the presence of those organisations. But we do not 
want them to be abused by the autorities. NGO's and VN-organisations should 
operate so that not only those who are favoured by the regime can profit 
from their efforts, but everybody who needs help. As far as I can see, the 
autorities are involved so much with the work of thos organisations and teh 
way the projects are carried out that they serve their purposes. I believe 
they should work with our party, because we represent the will of the people."
The European Union has this week decided to ban memeber of the junta and 
their families from entering the EU. Is that enough?
"I welcome every measure. But if they really want to help, stronger measures 
must be taken against the regime, so that real pressure is put on them."

BCN is onafhankelijke stichting. Doel: Nederlandse samenleving informeren 
over Burma. Het initieert en co-ordineert aktiviteiten die democratisering 
en duurzame ontwikkeling bevorderen. Het geeft een positieve bijdrage aan 
een constructieve dialoog tussen de diverse groeperingen.

Paulus Potterstraat 20
(31)20-6716952 (tel)
(31)20-6713513 (fax)


Just remember one website:


This single page serves only as an easy to remember URL and departure
point to resources promoting the establishment of democracy in Burma.