Nepali Times
The Lady speaks

Six weeks after her release from house arrest, Burmese pro-democracy leader and Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi talks about the prospects and difficulties of bringing about political change in Burma with Mon Mon Myat of the Mekong series/IPS Asia-Pacific.

Mon Mon Myat: Is the major force for democratic change inside the country, or is it international pressure?
Aung San Suu Kyi: I think force from inside is more important, but it doesn't mean international actions are not important. I think there are more responsibilities for the inside force.

What is ASEAN's role in pushing Burma for change?
The role of ASEAN might be important. In South Africa, all African neighbours supported the African people. That is why their movement developed quickly and effectively. In the Burma situation, it is not the same. We have faced difficulties in making progress with the movement. I think the support of regional governments and their pragmatic assistance are vital for us.

Many have said that political and economic ties with neighbouring countries cannot be excluded. Likewise, economic sanctions imposed by western countries created stronger economic ties between Burma and its neighbours. How can China or India help Burma?
They can do it if they really want to help us, but we can't force them to do it. We need to make it happen. At the same time, we need to be friends with the whole world as we are related. What I think is that our giant neighbours like India and China respect stability in our country. They think that only a military government can sustain stability. We have to try to change their view. We need to make them understand that a democratic government elected by the people can become the government, which can also guarantee the country's stability.

What is your opinion on development projects such as hydropower projects, gas pipeline projects or Asian highway trade route projects?
We don't have any objection if those projects can develop the country or the region, but the government that rules this country has the responsibility to make it advantageous for the country. Some say that the Burmese people have not benefitted from foreign investment. To avoid this, the main responsibility remains with the government. If there is transparency, people will know what the advantages and disadvantages are, and they can make a decision. In some cases, we didn't know how things happened, how agreements were made between countries, what major things were included in the agreements. I think people should be informed about those things. It is not only because of our belief in democracy; there would also be fewer mistakes if people knew things. International aid agencies have been providing humanitarian aid to Burma. There are also some civic groups that believe that if more people could be involved in community development work, this could initiate good governance without a change in government.

Is there any prospect that good governance can be practiced without a change in the government?
Let me compare this with the media situation. There is not much media freedom in Burma now but media space is getting wider to a certain extent as there are more journals and magazines. It is similar with the civic groups. As there are more civic groups now, some progress can be made to a certain extent in practicing transparency and accountability among those groups. Those groups have to try to make it happen. If journals and magazines only work or write following the guidelines (set by the censor board), there will be no progress but if they are trying to do better and develop media freedom, there will be more progress gradually. If they do nothing, then there will be no progress.

What would be your message to the international community, including the UN and aid agencies, and those who are ready to welcome the so-called new government?
Actually, it is no wonder that the international community and governments acknowledge the new government rather than welcome. They have acknowledged the military government as the de facto government. So there is no difference.

It is true that people in the country don't think it is a change of government but in the outside world, they are preparing to repatriate Burmese refugees from the Thai-Burma border. How long do refugees and exiled political groups need to wait to return home?
I can't say, as I'm not an astrologer. I want to do it as soon as possible. I don't feel comfortable that our people are living in insecurity on foreign soil. It is a desire for those people to return home as soon as possible but the desire should not end as a wish. As I always say, do not just hope but work for it.

What do you want to say to those who doubt your non-violent revolution?
I think there are misunderstandings about the non-violent way. Some might think that non-violence means not doing anything and accepting whatever suppression (comes). It doesn't mean that. Non-violence is a basic principle. Based on that principle, there are different ways. As I have often been asked this question, I have often answered using Gandhi ji's saying:

"Non-violence requires more courage, more determination and it is harder than using a violent way." Although it is harder, it can go further.

If we use the violent way, we might reach our goal quickly but there will be many wounds among the people and for the country. It will take a long time to cure those wounds. But if we use a non-violent way, it will take time to reach our goal but the country's rehabilitation won't take a long time. If we use the wrong way, we may miss our goal. When leaders of independent movements have become the government, they have often suppressed people more than colonial governments.

What message would you want to deliver to the countries in the region?
What I want to say to the countries in the region is that if Burma has stability, development and union, it will benefit the whole region. So we are the forces who are trying to have stability, development and unity in the country. Don't consider us a stranger or an enemy. I would like to request them to please be in touch with us, work together with us and support us to build up our country.

1. The Diaspora
Wake up to reality Aung San Suu Kyi; Thailand is worried all the cheap labor might return home and Thai speaky no English.  After a decade of sanctions Phuket has 200000 Burmese economic refugees.

"While the handout to the province is based on the 320,000 registered citizens, the real population probably rides above one million when 200,000 Burmese workers and thousands of tourists are on the island in any given month."

The below is from Wiki-pedia not Wiki-leaks

Following voluntary migration to Thailand, men, women, and children, primarily from Burma, are subjected to conditions of forced labor in agriculture, factories, construction, commercial fisheries and fish processing, domestic work and begging. 

(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)