Events

Daw Aung San Suu Kyi Calls for Rule of Law, Cautious Engagement in Burma

October 3, 2012

“Everyone has been speaking about how change has come to Burma, and I would like to say that it’s important that you make haste sensibly,” Nobel laureate and elected parliamentarian of Burma (also known as Myanmar), Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, said to a packed, eager audience at The Asia Foundation’s offices in downtown San Francisco on September 28. She also delivered this note of caution: “To our friends who want to help us, it’s not enough to help a country which is emerging from dictatorship into democracy. It has to be helped in such a way that the foundations of a democratic society would be strengthened. This of course means empowering the people.”

Daw Aung San Suu Kyi speaks at Asia Foundation

Daw Aung San Suu Kyi with Asia Foundation President David D. Arnold during a Q&A session. Photo/Whitney Legge

The event, which was one of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi’s main stops on her historic 2-week visit to the United States, marked her first public remarks in the Bay Area. The Asia Foundation’s president, David D. Arnold, led a lively and intimate Q&A session after her remarks, where she spoke candidly on democratic reforms in Burma, her own leadership aspirations, time in house arrest, and other insights on Burma’s political, economic, and social transitions. In his introduction, President Arnold said:  “To all of us here and to millions of people around the world, our guest today has truly been an inspiration. She has inspired us with her personal sacrifice, her incredible courage, and her unwavering commitment to the values of human rights, freedom, and democracy.”

On the reforms underway in her country, she said: “Democratization must be beneficial to all. This is the challenge:  a unified approach to the democratization process, a unified approach between the executive, legislature, and as yet almost non-existent judiciary, and the armed forces. We must work together to ensure that democratic institutions gather strength day to day. We are all impatient as we have waited 50 years for change to come.”

She continued later: “I don’t think anything unbelievable has happened yet, because we have not quite gotten to the point where it’s unbelievable. When we have gotten to the point when we can say that Burma has put down strong democratic roots, then perhaps I’d think this is unbelievable, but so far I don’t think anything is unbelievable, and certainly I never doubted that our cause would prevail.”

The Asia Foundation first opened an office in Burma in 1954, and since 2007 has donated more than 80,000 books to organizations in Burma. To ensure that Burma’s social, political, and economic reforms are durable, the Foundation is undertaking an expanded program of development assistance, including: strengthening core institutions of democratic governance; enhancing the country’s foreign affairs capabilities, especially as Burma prepares to chair ASEAN in 2014; supporting the management of sub-national conflict; ensuring free, fair, and credible elections; ensuring access to information and informed public debate; and assisting with economic reforms for broad-based growth and increased opportunities for all.

Watch a full video and a slideshow of images from the event on The Asia Foundation’s website, and read more in-depth analysis on Burma written by the Foundation’s experts in this blog.

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