Notes from the Field

Daw Aung San Suu Kyi Speaks with Mongolian Youth

May 8, 2013

Just months before Mongolia prepares for its 6th Presidential Elections on June 26, the capital, Ulaanbaatar, hosted thousands of delegates from over 100 countries for the 7th Ministerial Conference of the Community of Democracies. Among the impressive list of influential guests, Nobel laureate and elected parliamentarian of Burma/Myanmar, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, drew one of the biggest crowds.

Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and Mongolian President Tsakhia Elbegdorj

Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and Mongolian President Tsakhia Elbegdorj deliver a public lecture, with more than 800 people gathered in the Great Hall of State Palace for the event. Photo/president.mn

After the Ministerial Conference, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi stayed for a few more days in Mongolia to share with citizens, including civil society representatives and human rights activists, the experience of democracy in Burma versus in Mongolia, the country of her “ancestors,” as she warmly noted several times during her time here. The highlight of her visit was the joint public lecture, “Mongolia and Myanmar: Path to Democracy and Freedom,” delivered on April 30 together with Mongolian President Tsakhia Elbegdorj. More than 800 people gathered in the Great Hall of State Palace for the event, organized especially for Mongolian youth by the NGO, Globe International, and the Oluulaa Club, and the full lecture was broadcasted live throughout the country. With no seats left, the audience was in high spirits during the two-hour event in which both President Elbegdorj and Aung San Suu Kyi shared their thoughts on democracy, freedom, and achieving change through non-violent means. Daw Aung San Suu Kyi specifically directed her message to the Mongolian youth, encouraging them to exercise their right to vote, while reminding everyone that “voting for free and fair elections is a precious right to preserve.”

She also told the audience that while pursuing democracy, one should always keep a healthy balance between freedom and security as the essential elements of democracy: “we are responsible not only for our freedom and security, but also for the freedom and security of others.” She described Burma’s long path to democracy as not an easy one, full of hurdles to overcome and frustrations to cope with, leaving behind wounds that will take time to heal albeit less time than if a less peaceful road would have been chosen.

Afterwards, many of the young members of the audience commented on how they found her speech to be “simple, profound, and down to earth.” As they said, usually when Mongolians talk about democracy, they tend to use very complicated words, blurring the real meaning of the word “democracy.” One of our Asia Foundation colleagues noted that listening to her simple, yet wise message reminded the Mongolian audience of the very essence and importance of democracy that Mongolia has gained not so long ago, close to the beginning of a new century.

The Asia Foundation was the first international non-profit organization to be invited into Mongolia following the democratic transition in 1990. This year marks the 20th anniversary of the Foundation in Mongolia since it opened its office on October 1, 1993.

The following Asia Foundation staff in Mongolia contributed to this article: Naran Munkhbat, Ariunaa Norovsambuu, Gantulga Yonkhor, Chinkhand Dorj, Solongo Otgonbayar, and Batmunkh Batdelger. They can be reached at naran@asiafound.org, ariunaa@asiafound.org, gantulga.y@asiafound.org, chinkhand@asiafound.org, solongo@asiafound.org, and batmunkh@asiafound.org, respectively. The views and opinions expressed here are those of the individual authors and not those of The Asia Foundation.

View all posts by Ariunaa Norovsambuu

View all posts by Naran Munkhbat

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