Aung San Suu Kyi: in the past, people would claim that they have nothing to do with politics, they are not interested in politics, etc., but it is surprising that once the political space is opened a little, even a little, you will find that so many people are willing to act and change.
Yangon, the headquarters of the Myanmar National League for democracy and Aung San Suu Kyi held a press conference on the first anniversary of her release. The small room was crowded with journalists (photo reporter Jiang Xiaoming)
Yangon, Large billboards on the streets have mixed the commercial atmosphere sweeping the world into this traditional Buddhist country. In recent years, Myanmar has taken a series of measures to attract foreign investment (our reporter Jiang Xiaoming)
Mandalay, the second largest city in Myanmar, seems to feel the vitality and desire brought by the private economy from the restless streets (our reporter Jiang Xiaoming)
Bagan, Built in 1057, the ruishantuo tower is always crowded with foreign tourists taking photos at sunset. Myanmar has increased its opening-up in recent years, with a record number of more than 300000 international tourists in 2011 (our reporter Jiang Xiaoming)
people’s Weekly: Myanmar’s reform has triggered a lot of discussion recently. Some people say that Myanmar’s “spring” is coming. Do you agree?
Aung San Suu Kyi: you know, in Myanmar, we don’t have spring. Similarly, we don’t have summer, autumn and winter. Our seasons are very different (reporter’s note: Myanmar’s climate is greatly affected by monsoon, and a year is divided into hot season, rainy season and cold season), so I think (reform) will also be promoted in our own way. It’s too early to say what reform can bring, but I believe the president (Thein Sein) wants to bring real change. I am also confident that we will work together to promote change.
People Weekly: I chat with Burmese people. Many of them don’t believe that the government really wants to reform. Do you think the government is sincere in promoting reform or just out of strategy?
Aung San Suu Kyi: I believe the president is sincere. Of course, the president is not equal to the whole government, but obviously, he has considerable influence on other members of the government. I also understand that many people are skeptical because they have been cheated too many times in the past. However, we cannot let doubt stop us from moving forward.
People Weekly: for yourself, will you worry about everything going back overnight? This kind of thing has not never happened.
Aung San Suu Kyi: I won’t say I’m “worried” about this, I just remember: it’s possible. So no matter what I do, I will strive to make this retrogression no longer happen, and I will work very hard on every issue to ensure that progress can be sustained.
People Weekly: by the way, will you still call the current government a “repressive regime”?
Aung San Suu Kyi: we have to admit that this government is not 100% free and open, but obviously, it is more free and open even compared with a year ago.
People Weekly: what can the international community do to ensure that Myanmar’s reform is not reversed?
Aung San Suu Kyi: first of all, you have to affirm those changes in the right direction. I think it would be better for the international community to remind the Myanmar government that retrogression will lead to troublesome consequences.
People Weekly: I have read your dialogue with Alan Clement (reporter, the first American monk in Myanmar). You have mentioned the insecurity of Myanmar society many times. Where does this insecurity come from?
Aung San Suu Kyi: psychologists will say it has something to do with the environment in which our children grow up. So I think if we go back to the root causes of society and ask why we have this sense of insecurity, we will find that it has something to do with the history of our country. The history of a country will affect the way people think.
People Weekly: how to eliminate people’s sense of insecurity?
Aung San Suu Kyi: I think there are two ways. One is material. To eliminate insecurity, you must first let people have no worries about food and clothing, and don’t have to worry about basic living needs; At the same time, you have to deal with spiritual problems. We must make people more confident. I think it is closely related to education and ability development. If people believe that they can speak for themselves, work for themselves and create a more meaningful life for themselves, their self-confidence will be enhanced.
People Weekly: I read that you wrote to the United Nations to refute the reform and development model of “economy before politics”?
Aung San Suu Kyi: I did not write to the United Nations, but I often mentioned in my speeches and articles that economic reform and political reform must go hand in hand and be inseparable. If one is absent, the other will be unsustainable.
People Weekly: but some people will hold a positive attitude. At least they have benefited from economic reform.
Aung San Suu Kyi: then I have to ask a question: Well, you earn money. Do you think your money is safe? Do you think you’re safe? When I said this, it became a political issue. I think people should think about it. Well, you can make money first. You can ignore politics and political reform, but do you want the money you have worked hard to earn to be owned by you in the form of rights without being illegally deprived?
People Weekly: what do you think of the so-called “Asian value”?
Aung San Suu Kyi: I find it a little difficult to understand. I have lived in India for many years. Although I have never lived in China, I have also read a lot of books about China. In my opinion, the value of China is very different from that of India. Of course, the value of Myanmar is very different from that of China or India. So I’m not sure when people mention it What do you want to say when “Asian value”? Maybe you can explain it to me?
people’s Weekly: when some leaders and scholars in Singapore and Malaysia proposed it in the 1990s, they probably wanted to emphasize the differences in values between Asia and the West. For example, Asians pay more attention to the collective while Westerners pay more attention to the individual; Asians prefer harmony, while Westerners emphasize freedom…
Aung San Suu Kyi: is that true? I doubt whether Asians really put the collective before the individual. Sometimes when we are in Myanmar, we complain that the people lack civic awareness and say that they do not have a sense of community and collectivity, so I don’t know whether we Asians have more collective awareness than Westerners. Maybe the West has developed to a certain stage, so they have the capital to emphasize personal freedom more? I know that China has made great economic breakthroughs in recent years, so you may find that Chinese people emphasize themselves more and more, but gradually lose the value of collective and even family? Is that so? I think with the development of economy, this phenomenon will appear all over the world, especially when the competition is more and more fierce.
People Weekly: you once advocated civil disobedience, but you also said that in a free society, it is normal for people to ask “why”, while in an authoritarian society, asking such questions may bring danger, so the people will honestly be obedient to the people, so the people in power will become more domineering, So the people are even more afraid. How to jump out of this vicious circle?
Aung San Suu Kyi: you have to teach them to ask questions. We have been doing this in the NLD, and I keep telling them: you must learn to ask why. Sometimes we will encounter some funny things, of course, very sad. For a period of time, NLD members were constantly arrested, and people were taken away almost every day. We said to our members: they must have an arrest warrant to arrest. If someone comes to you and says “come with me”, you have to ask him: do you have an arrest warrant? Under which clause of the law did you arrest me? In short, you can’t give in easily. They usually arrest people at night. One night, the secret police came to arrest one of our members. He asked them: do you have an arrest warrant? Guess what the other person said? “We don’t need an arrest warrant. We’ve decided to sentence you for a few years!” Anyway, it’s good for people to ask why. If you stand up when threatened: what right do you have to arrest me? Sometimes the other person will feel nervous, and on some occasions, it will really make the result different.
People Weekly: how should people eliminate their fear?
Aung San Suu Kyi: fear is a habit. I think that if you think you should do something, even fear must be done. You can’t expect fear to disappear out of thin air. Your attitude should be: Well, I’m scared to death, but I have to do it. Because it may be scary to do it, but it’s worse not to do it. On this matter, I said it very simply to the NLD members: even if your knees are shaking, do it head-on, do it. You know, although we are afraid, once you do it, you will find that it is not so terrible. Sometimes I read some documentary stories about war. Some righteous men sneak into the enemy as spies. It’s extremely dangerous. How do they do this? Where does their power come from? I think those who shoulder commitments and missions will gain the strength to complete some seemingly impossible tasks. If you don’t take responsibility, you will accomplish nothing.
People Weekly: under repression, in addition to fear, people will also become cynical. They will keep a distance from politics. In addition to making money, they don’t believe or care about anything. Have you ever experienced such a situation in Myanmar?
Aung San Suu Kyi: This is very interesting. It’s surprising that once people have little room for politics and action, they won’t be interested in politics, even if they don’t want to go to politics, and so on. I think the reason is that many people want to participate in this movement. They believe that this movement can bring a better life to the people of this country.
People Weekly: but before that, many people felt powerless and even had a sense of betrayal.
Aung San Suu Kyi: if you feel betrayed, you have to do it yourself. It’s because you used to rely on others that you feel betrayal, isn’t it? People often ask me, when can we get democracy? I always tell them, you ask yourself. You ask yourself what you have done for democracy, and you answer yourself. If you don’t do anything, you’re not qualified to ask this question.
People Weekly: have you never felt powerless?
Aung San Suu Kyi: Yes. Because I never expect others. This is my own decision. No one forced me to participate in the democratic movement. I participated because I believe it is the right thing. Who can blame the lifestyle I choose? Now that I have chosen my own way, I must go on by myself.
People Weekly: has former Czech President Javier ever influenced you?
Aung San Suu Kyi: he supports our democratic movement very much and I respect him very much. Yes, some of his articles are rightI have great influence, such as his famous discussion of “power of powerless”. These thoughts have inspired us a lot, because we people have nothing but our own spirit.
People Weekly: in fact, I remember he said that you are the most outstanding representative of “the power of the powerless”. From your experience, where does the power of the powerless come from?
Aung San Suu Kyi: I think it comes from faith. You believe in some principles, you believe that certain lifestyles are preferable, and you believe that people have the ability to achieve these goals. I believe this is the source of power.
People Weekly: Why have the Burmese people never forgotten you after more than 20 years?
Daw Aung San Suu Kyi: I think a big difference between Myanmar and some countries is that we have established the NLD party. Now there are many people criticizing the NLD, and I believe some of them are reasonable – although we should be a legal political party, it is really difficult for us to operate in the way of a political party. In the past, we have been severely suppressed and regulated by various rules and regulations. But we survived. I think that’s one of the reasons why people haven’t forgotten the democratic movement. I think there was a time when people thought we were stupid because we were struggling to support. They will think: look at these stupid Democrats, look at these stupid NLD, they are finished… But in the end, I think they will respect us, because we stick to it, and our fire has never been extinguished.
People Weekly: a Burmese reporter told me that another reason may be that the military government is too hated.
Aung San Suu Kyi: I don’t know if people have such a great hatred. In fact, I hope not. I don’t want the democratic movement to be based on hatred. I hope it can be based on some more positive emotions, such as confidence in the future and the belief that our country should become better in the future. In any case, you cannot rely on hatred to achieve domestic reconciliation.
People Weekly: however, it is normal to have hatred for those who suffer from suffering or unfair treatment. If democracy is realized in the future, what will they do if they demand revenge?
Daw Aung San Suu Kyi: it is undeniable that there will always be people demanding revenge, which is the case all over the world, but we can look at the example of South Africa and Poland, and see how they deal with the problem of hatred in the process of transformation. They all found solutions to resolve hatred, not ignore it. You can’t ignore the past. You can’t get along with the past by ignoring it. They didn’t ignore it. They faced it. By facing it, they could resolve those feelings of suffering and resentment.
People Weekly: the challenge is how to avoid hatred and revenge without losing truth and justice.
Aung San Suu Kyi: accountability, I think responsibility is very important. On the issue of justice, I often quote Archbishop Tutu. He said he believed in restorative justice and did not believe in retaliative justice. What we must pursue is restorative justice.
People Weekly: I remember Archbishop Tutu seems to have said, remember the facts of evil, but forget the painful feelings.
Aung San Suu Kyi: Yes. People always say, forget it and forgive it. But I think sometimes true forgiveness can’t be forgotten. You have to remember what happened. What you need to forget is the sadness associated with it.
People Weekly: personally, I remember you said you never hated the military government. You said that if you began to hate them, you would be defeated. Why?
Aung San Suu Kyi: I think there is fear in real hatred. If you hate each other, you will be a little afraid of him. I have tried to analyze people’s feelings of hatred and often found that there are some elements of fear. For me, if I hate the junta, it means I’m afraid of them and I’m defeated by them.
People Weekly: what is your understanding of forgiveness?
Aung San Suu Kyi: I think this is first of all an understanding of why others do this or that. You may disagree, but you can still try to understand why the other person did it. If you don’t try to understand each other’s point of view, where can reconciliation begin?
People Weekly: which country has inspired you the most on the issue of democratic transformation?
Aung San Suu Kyi: it’s hard to say. Of course, the experience of South Africa is well known, but I think Poland has done well. The transformation experience of the world is different. For example, the transformation of Spain began after Franco’s death, but the peaceful transformation was successful because of its good design. Just like democracy, we all need to find the most suitable transformation model for ourselves. Of course, there are some basic elements and institutional design to ensure that the transformation is real, but all countries will have their own experience. I always hope that we can find the most suitable way for Myanmar. I think no matter which way we choose, we should be the best. Is this the question you’ve been thinking about?
Aung San Suu Kyi: Yes, it’s part of my life. Almost everything we do every day is related to it. We have been fighting for this for 23 years.
People Weekly: I read your anthology in memory of your father. In one of your articles, you wrote that there is often a danger in the revolutionary movement, that is, the urgent political tasks often obscure the revolutionS “
People Weekly: I remember you said that house arrest is only part of your work.”
Aung San Suu Kyi: Yes, of course I don’t want to be under house arrest, but since it’s inevitable, I accept it as part of my work.
People Weekly: have you ever felt bored? Unfair? Why do you think I have to bear all this?
Aung San Suu Kyi: No, I never thought it was unfair, boring or similar. In fact, you don’t have time to be bored because you always have a lot of things to do when you’re under house arrest.
People Weekly: won’t secular feelings occupy your time?
Aung San Suu Kyi: of course, but I never get bored. I think if you have enough inner strength, you won’t get bored. Besides, I have books to read and a radio to listen to. I’m much luckier than my colleagues in prison.
People Weekly: I’m a little curious. What can make you angry now?
Aung San Suu Kyi: wait a minute, what makes me angry today? (laughter) it’s actually small things. I don’t like people who are not punctual. I’m very punctual, punctuality is a kind of respect. I think if a person is not punctual, he or she lacks consideration, and lack of consideration makes me unhappy.”
People Weekly: Principles and idealism have no place in politics. Do you agree?
Aung San Suu Kyi: I disagree. There should be a place for principle in politics. As for idealism, it depends on your interpretation. You can interpret it as something very divorced from reality, or you can see it as a way of thinking: what is better and more worth having? So I think politicians can still have principle and idealism.
People Weekly: you always say, I never feel particularly brave, determined, etc. What makes you different?
Aung San Suu Kyi: Well, yes, I always say to them that I’m brave and strange. (laughter) I’m just doing what I have to do. I think in this way: I do what I have to do. If it looks brave to others, well, that’s good.
People Weekly: what is your inner driving force
Aung San Suu Kyi: believe what I do. I think what I do is what my country and people need.
People Weekly: never had self doubt?
Aung San Suu Kyi: No, I think it may have something to do with my growth environment. I think everyone’s way of growing up and being educated will bring you a series of values. If these values are strong enough, you won’t shake.
People Weekly: you said you believed in” engaged Buddhism “and wanted to know your definition of it.” Aung San Suu Kyi: by participatory Buddhism, I mean that Buddhists should not cut off their relationship with the outside world and accept everything as karma, because in the final analysis, “karma” It actually means doing something. In my opinion, Buddhism means that you can’t escape the consequences of what you do. You must take responsibility for what you do. There is a sense of responsibility, isn’t there? This is a good thing and should enter your daily life. Because Buddhism also teaches loving kindness and compassion, you have to put it into practice. You can’t just dream about “ah, I love the world”, which is not enough.
People Weekly: but your father made it clear that he opposed monks’ participation in politics.
Aung San Suu Kyi: Yes, he once said that the biggest politics that monks can do for the country is to spread Buddhism and love everywhere. But I think he will agree with me because it is also a kind of participation. There can be different levels of participation. I think if you really believe in the teachings of any religion, it is impossible to be completely divorced from political life. Because doctrines obviously affect the way you think. Of course, you can’t use religion as a tool for your personal political game.
People Weekly: those who often criticize the government are sometimes labeled as unpatriotic. How do you respond to this accusation?
Aung San Suu Kyi: we often see such things in Myanmar. During the period of the military government, the military government always claimed that they were patriots. They were the people who really loved the country, as if no one else could be patriotic. My father gave a speech to the soldiers when he was the supreme commander of the Myanmar army. He said at that time: don’t think you are the only people who love this country, and the ordinary people also love it. He made it very clear. I think everyone has the right to love their country in their own way. Just because you love your country doesn’t mean you have to carry a gun to the battlefield to defend the motherland. We safeguard the freedom of the people, but also defend the value of the country and express our love for the motherland.
People Weekly: how do you understand patriotism?
Aung San Suu Kyi: of course, literally, it refers to a person’s dedication to his motherland. But I think this kind of love should be the right love, not the love connected with hatred. I don’t believe in patriotism that makes you hate others. Hate is hate. Patriotism means that you want to bring the best things to your country and people, you want people to be independent, you want them to have a sense of security, you want them to live a rich life, and you want them to be honest and trustworthyJi: we must unite first. We are small countries, but it doesn’t matter. Many small countries in the world are strong because of unity. We must make our people more talented, and then we can stand up and develop friendly relations with our neighbors and the world. We hope to be friends of China, and we also hope to be friends of the United States.
People Weekly: what do you want to say to the Chinese people?
Aung San Suu Kyi: as China’s neighbors, we want to maintain friendly and warm relations with China. I hope they know that we will work hard for this, and I also hope they can help our efforts.
People Weekly: in 1988, you always told people to have high aspirations and the highest aspirations. What is your highest ambition now?
Aung San Suu Kyi: my highest ambition is left to my country. As I just said, I hope to bring the best for my country. I hope our people… Too many… I hope they are honest, I hope they are smart, diligent and successful, but most importantly, I hope they live in peace with each other. I hope to achieve harmony in my country, a country with many ethnic minorities.
People Weekly: you are 66 years old. What else do you believe in?
Aung San Suu Kyi: there are many more, I can’t just say the same. I believe in what we are doing. I believe we need to change the current situation in Myanmar. I believe there are still a lot of things to do to build the values and beliefs of the people. There are too many things I believe in, but that doesn’t mean I can’t listen to other people’s views.
People Weekly: what do you think of the impact of age on this career?
Aung San Suu Kyi: I don’t like the idea of working forever. I hope that one day, I can say, well, Myanmar is on the right track and many young people are shouldering their responsibilities. I can rest. That would be very good.
People Weekly: if one day you can rest, what is your ideal life like?
Aung San Suu Kyi: my ideal life is that I can read whenever and how many books I want in a day, without strictly dividing my day into time periods according to work, responsibilities and so on.
People Weekly: is there a book that has the greatest impact on you?
Aung San Suu Kyi: I can’t say that a book has the greatest impact on me, but I like les miserables very much.
People Weekly: can I know the biggest regret in your life?
Aung San Suu Kyi: I think I won’t know until the end of my life. So far, I can’t say. (laughter)
People Weekly: so, as a woman, what’s your biggest regret?
Aung San Suu Kyi: I don’t think I can live closely with my two sons.
People Weekly: how do you want your sons to evaluate their mothers?
Aung San Suu Kyi: a loving person.