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14/11/96: ABC-TV, AN INTERVIEW WITH
Subject: 14/11/96: ABC-TV, AN INTERVIEW WITH DASSK.
/* Written 18 Nov 6:00am 1996 by drunoo@xxxxxxxxxxxx in igc:reg.burma */
/* ----------------" ABC-tv: Interview with DASSK "------------------ */
Excerpts from Australian Broadcasting Corporation-TV Late Line programme,
"BURMA - PARIAH OR PLAYER". Braodcasted at 10:35pm Thursday 14 November 1996.
NB: incomplete & un-official transcript. -- U Ne Oo
Presenter: Maxine McCune
Program: Lateline, ABC-TV.
Evans Williams' introductory report: ....
Maxine McCune: That report is from Evans Williams. Aung San Suu Kyi is the
Secretary of the National League for Democracy in Burma. In 1989, she was
arrested by the military and remained under house arrest for six years; in
1990 her party won overwhelming majority in general elections but the Slorc
refuse to acknowledge the result. In 1991 she was awarded the Nobel Peace
Prize and was released last year. As Evans Williams indicated, the military
keep Suu Kyi under very tight control but we were able to interview her by
phone and her answers were recorded by camera in Rangoon.\
Maxine: Aung San Suu Kyi, in recent weeks, of course, Slorc has once again
attempted to make the life very very difficult for you and your supporters.
What is behind the latest crackdown do you think ?
ASSK: I think probably it is an attempt to avoid the political settlement
through dialogue; and if that is so, that'll be a great mistake. Because
political settlement through dialogue will be beneficial to all parties
concerned. Whereas this kind of violence and that the anarchy they are
promoting in the long-run affect everybody in a very negative way.
Maxine: And I gathered the Slorc has shown no interest so far in dialogue
ASSK: Well, no; perhaps they have not so far; but things can always change.
Maxine: Your motorcade, of course, was attacked at the weekend as well.
Does this suggest to you as, perhaps, a new phase of intimidation ?
ASSK: Well, intimidation has been going on for long time; but, yes, you
could call it a new phase in seeing that it is a little-bit more violent
than what has gone before.
Maxine: Are you worried about it escalating ?
ASSK: I don't know that as worried it as an exactly the word; but of
course, there is always possibility that such tactics will escalate into a
Maxine: We've been in touch with the U.S. Senator John McCane, who was, of
course in Rangoon in the past couple of days and he saw what happened and
in fact he described it to us as a potentially endangering you; but as
regards any possible ban on US investment, the Senator McCane has really
said the US will be very much guided by you on this. I mean what would it
take, I suppose, would happened to you before when you would feel the
need to give that the call for the sort of tougher action ?
ASSK: I am already given the people the benefit of the doubt; although it
is quite clear that the authorities were involved in that attack on
Saturday. If they are really prepared to investigate the matter, in a fair
way, I am prepare to go along with it. And its not out for vengeance, you
know. The NLD is not out for vengeance; we do not believe in that. And
we will see how things developed before we decide how far we ought to press
for a greater sanction against the government of Burma.
Maxine: In just over a week as well, the President Clinton will be in the
region; would tougher representation from him made any difference to Slorc,
do you believe.
ASSK: It depends on what sort of representation it is; and I always
held a believe that nobody is oblivious to international pressure and
I don't think the SLORC is either, whatever they may say.
Maxine: And yet, the recent tactics is somewhat at odd, aren't they ? what
the Slorc want in terms of in the region. At a time Slorc is very keen to
be accepted as the full member of ASEAN. Why would it(Slorc) behave the way
that it has in recent times.
ASSK: Well, the Slorc is not exactly that famous for its perfect timing,
Maxine: What is your message, indeed, to the other ASEAN member countries,
as regards the acceptance of Burma as a full member ?
ASSK: Burma, under the present system is not going to be accredited to the
region at all.
Maxine: So you prefer ASEAN to leave this issue to cool it for a while ?
ASSK: I think that if ASEAN want a member country that it accredited to the
organization and to the region, then it should do much more to make sure
that Slorc goes along a civilized ways to improve things in Burma. You
cannot improve things through violence. You cannot change things to the
better by promoting anarchy. And if ASEAN wants a respectable member
state, and then the ASEAN should made that quite clear to the the Slorc.
Maxine: Has it ?
ASSK: I don't know. You must ask ASEAN.
Maxine: The countries lined up in a different ways, don't they ? I mean,
Thailand and the Philippines seems to be most resistant in letting Burma in.
Why is that, I suppose, say, Indonesia and Malaysia, who are apparently
somewhat more relaxed about the membership.
ASSK: Perhaps it is a reflection of situation in their own countries.
Maxine: What do you mean by that ?
ASSK: Well, I think in Thailand and in the Philippines they have, I think,
a much stronger democratic lobby.
Maxine: Do you see any sign that the constructive engagement which is of
course current ASEAN policy- do you see any sign that the pressure being
brought onto the Slorc in return for investment and trade.
ASSK: I always thought that the constructive engagement is an opposite to
pressure; I mean, constructive engagement as it has been interpreted over
the last few years. In my opinion, of course, constructive engagement means
constructively engaged with everybody concerned, including us. But at the
moment the ASEAN countries are not really constructively engaged in
opposition in Burma.
Maxine: There is, obviously though, that tremendous enthusiasm by other
regional economies to trade with Burma; I mean, in the end this may be
really impossible to resist this momentum ?
ASSK: I think you will find that the enthusiasm has been considerably
dampened in last six months of so; because it is becoming increasingly
obvious that the economy in Burma is not really developing the way
people hope that it would.
Maxine: As you know, if we look around region in recent history, in the
Philippines, it took something like a very frustrated middle class that was
fed up with the corruption and in the end, of course, the Marcos regime
collapse. Can you see something similar happening in Burma. Does those sort
of pre-condition exist ?
ASSK: Well, Burma is not the Philippines. But I think one can see that
there is quite a lot of frustration building around the country. Whenever
frustration builds-up at that rate there is never good for the future.
Maxine: Can they be a peaceful transition to democracy, do you think ?
ASSK: I think we can bring about a peaceful transition if all
of us are interested enough in bringing about one.
Maxine: What about the position of the Australian Government ? I'm
interested in your view on that. Of course our policy said the the economic
sanction would not be effective against Slorc and that in turn, our policy
is neither encouraging nor discouraging investment in Burma. Does
neutrality of this position worried you somewhat ?
ASSK: Well, I think sitting on the fence must be extremely uncomfortable
position and I myself has never been in the favour of such a very
precarious stand; or I should perhaps say sits as its were.
Maxine: What would you suggest would be a more appropriate policy then, for
ASSK: I think Australian Government should have far more clear-cut policy
as to what and when they should do, whatever it is that need to be done
with regards to Burma. I do not think that any government can see that
sanction don't work - just like that. Sanctions do work under certain
circumstances and even I would say that in most circumstances sanction do
work to certain extent.
Maxine: And just finally then, what does sustains you in your struggle. I
am sure you must fantise, from time to time, about a much more tranquil and
comfortable life back with your family.
ASSK: Yes. I think the commitment of so many people who have so much less
than I have and so much more to loose, I think it is the commitment of our
colleagues and supporters that sustains me.
Maxine: Aung San Suu Kyi, thank you very much indeed for that. Thank you.
ASSK: Not at all. Thank you. Good bye.
Maxine: Aung San Suu Kyi in Rangoon and that interview was recorded by
telephone on Tuesday . Well. Now to our other guests. Alexander Downers has
been Australia's foreign minister since March. He served as a diplomat before
entering parliament in 1984; and he was federal opposition leader in 1995
before taking on a job of as a Shadow foreign spokesperson which leads upto
the last election. Mr Downed is now in Adelaide.
Nancy Polosi has represented the Sanfrancisco and the U.S. House
of representatives since 1987 and served in the House appropriation and
ethnic committee and select committee on intelligence. Congresswomen Polosi
has been prominent advocate of economic sanction against Burma and she
joins us now from Washington.
Kavi Chongkittavorn is the executive editor of one of the
Thailand's most prominent English language newspaper, The Nation. He
written extensively on Burma and regional affairs. And Mr Kavii served as
ASEAN secretariat as for two years and joins us from Bangkok. Thanks for
all of you for joining us this session:
conversation contd. with Kavi and Nancy Polosi ..............
Maxine: I'll come back to that point later. Minister, just to the ASEAN
question first. Does Burma deserves full membership of ASEAN do you think ?
Downed: Well, I obviously take to the position that the ASEAN to make that
judgement not up to us. Having listen to the conversation, my view is that
there is a great deal more concerns in ASEAN about Burma than sometime
publicly expressed; and we concentrated a lot of our diplomacy on the issue
of Burma on ASEAN, knowing that ASEAN really is, at least, the key to
outside pressure, on the liberalization in Burma and particularly
liberalizing of Slorc. As I have found that that I have spoken with ASEAN
foreign ministers, there is a lot of concerns. They have the policy
of non-interference in the internal affairs of other countries and in term
of their public statement, they adhered to that rigorously. But privately I
do think that they are very concerned and, I think, you see some
delays on Burma's accession to ASEAN; a desire by ASEAN which is quite
deeply held desire, not an equal degree across ASEAN, as has pointed out,
but certainly a desire across ASEAN for the process of liberalization to
Maxine: When you say a delay minister, what do you think ? Is it a quite a
few years away ?
Downers: I wouldn't put a time on it but I don't think its going to happen
until in a middle of next year; I think a number of technical obstacles
will stands on the ways of that. But it is true that in different ASEAN
Countries, there is different strength of feeling on this. I don't think it
is any secret that in the Philippines and Thailand the greater degree of
concerns have been expressed. But it is also true that in other part of
ASEAN, there's a lot of concerns about Burma and; So I think in the first
place, ASEAN would like to do what it can privately to place pressure on
the Slorc and secondly I am very much the view that the, frankly, with a
great respect to the American Congresswomen, it is not the United States or
Australia or European Union which is going to have influence on the Slorc,
But it is ASEAN and of course to some extent it is China.
Maxine: But it is Aung San Suu Kyi, as you heard, who is calling on the
countries to take position on this and as regard to Australia. She said
we are sitting on the fence.
Downers: Well, we take one of the strongest position of any country on Burma
as a matter of fact; and we take on the same position for quite sometime
now and previous government and present government. We have, if you like,
two approaches though; first of all, we have the carrot and stick approach
that is we say we won't provide any aid to Burma except through NGOs. No
official aid whatsoever, that's all been cut off. Secondly, we won't promote
trade or investment with Burma; But on the otherside of equation we have
worked very hard, I can't speak for my predecessor, he probably did too.
But, I have certainly work very hard to try to get a - how can I put it -
to a greater degree of enthusiasm through the region, for placing pressure
on the Slorc.
Maxine: Minister, where is the evidence of that pressure is working ?
Downers: Well, I don't want to be too outspoken about this; But I'll just
make the point that I do think there is a lot of concern about this issue,
as I have already said, among ASEAN countries and; I think the fact that
there are techincal obstacles the immediate future will delay Burma's
membership of ASEAN that something need to be focus on. But let me also say
that's all very well to chastise the international community as the media
often do, for not doing enough about Burma because the evidence is the
Slorc still remain in place and still repressive. But the fact is the very
nature of Slorc regime, which is dogmatic, uncompromising and repressive
has made it particularly insensitive to international pressure. I deeply
regret that and I'll be first to admit the international pressure so far
have not deliver the liberalization of Burma or even the opening of
dialogue between the Slorc and National league for Democracy and Aung San
Suu Kyi; I can see that.
Maxine: But, that has been the case then, I'm just surprised that we can
afford to be neutral something about the as regards to the membership of ...
Downers: I'm sorry. You say when neutral which surprises me that you would
use the term. The fact is that we are nothing remotely neutral. Not neutral
/* Endreport */