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From The Archives: The Words of Aung San Suu Kyi

by On The Issues Magazine


The release of democracy leader Daw Aung San Suu Kyi from house arrest has had the state of Burma in the midst of celebration since this weekend. The first imprisoned person to be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, Suu Kyi has been an inspiration for the people of her country and across the world, as her commitment to non-violence and human rights has served as an example of leadership and hope for the impoverished state that currently resides under military dictatorship.

Twelve years ago, On The Issues Magazine featured excerpts of Aung San Suu Kyi's discussions with author Alan Clements, who spent five months with the leader before writing his book, Voice of Hope. Here are some snippets of that discussion, from our archives:

On non-violence towards an extremely violent regime: "I do not believe in an armed struggle because it will perpetuate the tradition that he who is best at wielding arms, wields power. That will not help democracy.

Non-violence means positive action. You have to work for whatever you want. You don't just sit there doing nothing and hope to get what you want. It just means that the methods you use are not violent ones. Some people think that non-violence is passiveness. It's not so. I know it is the slower way, and I understand why our young people feel that it will not work. But I cannot encourage that kind of attitude. Because if I do, we will be perpetuating a cycle of violence that will never come to an end."

On being labeled "the world's most famous political prisoner": "I'm not one who thinks that labels are that important. Recently somebody asked if I felt that I had less moral authority now that I was free. I found it a very strange question. If your only influence depends on you bei ng a prisoner, then you have not much to speak of."

On her former detention and being torn away from her life and family: "I never felt cut off from life. I listened to the radio many times a day, I read a lot, I felt in touch with what was going on in the world. But I was, of course, very happy to meet my friends again.

I missed my family, particularly my sons. I missed not having the chance to look after them -- be with them. With my sons, I was always running around with them playing together. Having long discussions with them. Sometimes I would argue with them -- tremendously passionate arguments, because my sons can be quite argumentative, and I am argumentative, too. My elder son, being more mature, tends to discuss philosophical issues more, whereas with my younger son, we don't talk about that sort of thing much -- at least not yet. He's very musical...

But, no, I did not feel cut off from life. Basically, I felt that being under house arrest was just part of my job -- I was doing my work."

On fellow Buddhists referring to her as striving for Buddhahood: "Oh, for goodness sake, I'm nowhere near such a state. And I'm amazed that people think I could be anything like that. I am one of those people who strive for self improvement. I do try to be good (laughs)."

Read the rest of these excerpts in our profile of this incredible woman and her struggle for a democratic Burma.

Also see: "Justice for Aung San Suu Kyi: End Male Power Structures" by Janet Benshoof

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