VOA Burmese had an exclusive interview with Daw Aung San Suu Kyi this morning. Read what she has to say about sanctions, dialogue and Burma’s future. The interview was hosted by U Than Lwin Htun of VOA Burmese.
VOA : You’ve been calling for dialogue since you came out of house detention in November. Will we see that happen in the near future? And what makes Senior General Than Shwe reluctant to see you?
Daw Aung San Suu Kyi : I think, the last question, Senior General Than Shwe must answer himself. But as for us, although we don’t see that dialogue is imminent, at this time, we still think that it is possible. And we must do everything that we can do to make it possible.
VOA: It is apparent that Burma needs change. The international community, including the U.N. and the U.S have been calling for political reforms in the country, but the SPDC (military regime) is going their own way, such as- taking their 7 step road map to democracy, which in fact is just to prolong the military rule in the country. What more can the international community do to persuade the military regime to move toward a real democratic change?
Daw Aung San Suu Kyi: I think it is very important that the international community speak with one voice. It should be better coordinated, as there are differences with the policies of each country and each region, as it were, with regard to Burma. So if all the members of the international community, including the United Nations, could call with one voice, for an inclusive political process in Burma, I think that would be of great help.
VOA: The Obama Administration announced a new Burma policy in late 2009 while you were in detention. The policy went from tougher sanctions and pressure policy to a milder pragmatic engagement policy. What was your thought or reaction to that?
Daw Aung San Suu Kyi: I believe in this policy of pragmatic engagement, because I think ________ (inaudible audio) engages the better. The only thing I ask is that the engagement should apply to both sides, that is, not just to the military government, but also to the opposition parties.
VOA: Critics say that the new policy is lack of real teeth. For example, the policy has no specific time-frame to exert more pressure (when the military regime is not doing enough) to move toward national reconciliation, such as, releasing political prisoners, entering dialogue etc. What is your thought on that?
Daw Aung San Suu Kyi: Well, I think, especially with regard to freeing all political prisoners, there ought to be a time frame. And of course, this is something, that I’m sure, the United States administration is thinking over because the situation is changing all the time. I think it is quite normal for governments to review their policies from time to time.
VOA: People are saying, and especially the policy makers are defending, that the engagement is an on-going process, but it should not be on-going for so long without tangible results. If, as you said, the policy makers are to review the process, what would be your input?
Daw Aung San Suu Kyi: I think the on-going process should involve some milestones which of course would be in the time frame. Certain milestones should be reached in a certain time frame. Otherwise, the freedom of political prisoners, like I had said, would be on-going forever, and there might be no results at all. I think this is something that the United States government should be prepared to consider especially as we have the very very strong support of the congress.