"Aung San Suu Kyi: This government is not capable of running the economy"

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Do you think anything significant will come out of this latest visit by the U.N. Special Envoy?
We think this is one of many initiatives going on, so we don't think it is particularly significant. As you are probably aware, this has been going on for some time. This was not the first time that Mr. De Soto has visited Burma. In fact, this is the fourth time. So it is nothing new and just one of many things going on about Burma. In any of the initiatives that are going on, do you see any hope of the kind of dialogue that both sides talk about but have failed to achieve for all these years?
I think by now I have made it fairly clear that I am not very happy with the word hope. I don't believe in people just hoping. We work for what we want. I always say that one has no right to hope without endeavor, so we work to try and bring about the situation that is necessary for the country, and we are confident that we will get to the negotiation table at one time or another. This is the way all such situations pan out-- even with the most truculent dictator.

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Do any of these initiatives help prod a dialogue to take place, or on the contrary, do they just prolong it by offering endless chances for one side or another to make diversions?
These days I am using the analogy to answer the question which so many people ask me: what do I think about this stalemate? I have to question them about what exactly they mean by stalemate. If you look at the democratic process as a game of chess, there have to be many, many moves before you get to checkmate. And simply because you do not make any checkmate in three moves does not mean it's stalemate. There's a vast difference between no checkmate and stalemate. This is what the democratic process is like. If you say that any of these processes nudge one or the other toward dialogue, it is not always possible to see at the time. Because if you go back to this game of chess, it is not possible to see whether one or the other will hasten the process of getting to checkmate or whether it will drag it out a bit--because sometimes in chess you move sideways, as it were. It is not a direct step-by-step pattern in one straight line.

Back to the UN: I spoke with the Foreign Minister [of Myanmar, U Win Aung] recently, and to paraphrase, his language was rather positive. He summed it up by saying the horizon is misty, but he allowed that the dry season has just started and he suggested that perhaps clarity is not so far behind. He talked about an exchange of views with De Soto in which he did not characterize you as the opposition because, he said, we are only a caretaker government, we are only contesting power, so I won't call them the opposition. Is this a more conciliatory tone toward you?
This is nothing new. In recent months they have been taking this line that there is no opposition in Burma. In fact, what they are really trying to get at is that they are an unopposed government--that there is no opposition in Burma. This has been going on for several months now--this statement coming from various directions that there is no opposition in Burma.

The government also spends a lot of time talking about the ethnic minorities and how until you settle that problem, no government can really function--that the next government to emerge will benefit from the kind of talks that are going on.
Why don't you talk to the ethnic minorities and find out what they feel about it? We don't represent an ethnic minority party. Mind you, in the CRPP [the Committee Representing the People's Parliament), which the NLD announced last year] there are four ethnic nationality parties represented. I would suggest that you talk to them directly. That would be better than getting my views or those of the SPDC [State Peace and Development Council], which always would, of course, be in their own favor.

But in terms of this emphasis on security first which SLORC [State Law and Restoration Council] and then the SPDC have talked about for as long as they have been in power...?
All military regimes use security as the reason why they should remain in power. It's nothing original.

Is security nonetheless an important element in a country that is so ethnically diverse as Burma?
Wouldn't you say that unity comes first? Out of unity comes security. I don't think you can impose security from on top. Just look at Yugoslavia. For years it seemed as if everything was quiescent, but this was not the kind of security you would like--something that was imposed on the people and not something that had arisen from trust and understanding between them. So I think we want to put unity first. Out of real unity--which can only be based on understanding and mutual respect--will come the kind of security that we really want and the people really want.

You've mentioned from the start that you are not against the military--you are the daughter of the founder of it--but what value would you place on security if you were to have a more powerful role?
Are you asking whether if the NLD were in power, would we use security as an excuse to do what we want? We certainly would not.

But would security be an important element of your program?
Every government must consider the security of the country. That is just part of the responsibilities of any government. But true security can only come out of unity within a country where there are so many ethnic nationalities.

Doesn't the number of ethnic nationalities complicate the whole political situation in Burma?
If you mean does it complicate the process of democratization, no. It's only that the SPDC wants to use it as an excuse to complicate the situation. We have very good relations with the ethnic minorities, and I would like to point out that two of the ethnic nationality parties represented in the CRPP were second and third after the NLD in the [1990 elections]. They won more seats than the NUP [the government party], which was fourth among the parties. We were of course the frontrunner. So you could say that we have managed to reach an understanding with some of the most important ethnic nationality groups. If given half a chance we could establish perfectly good relations with the ceasefire groups. If the SPDC wants to test it, why don't they let us meet the ceasefire groups and see how we get on?

Are they segregated from you?
They are not allowed to meet the NLD. I'm sure they are not allowed to, and if the SPDC really wants to find out whether we are capable of achieving unity with the ethnic nationalities in addition to the ones with whom we are already officially working together, then arrange an official meeting with the ceasefire groups. We are not afraid of such a meeting. We think that only positive things can come out of such a meeting.

Is this something that comes up in talks you would have with a visitor like De Soto? De Soto was, according to the government, apparently talking with them at some length about the ethnic minorities.
I'm sure Mr. De Soto knows--at least he should know--that four of the largest ethnic nationality parties are represented in the CRPP, so he doesn't have to ask us about our relations with them.

In the 1990 election and in the parliament that was elected, aren't the ethnic minorities an important part of that? What is your strength in that regard?
We won a majority of seats in a number of ethnic states, including the Kachin, Karen and Mon. Not in the Shan and not in the Arakan, but it is with those two parties that we are working together now--along with two other parties--in the CRPP. So there is perfect understanding and friendship between us and ethnic nationality parties. We understand them. They want to represent their own states and that's no problem for us. We can still work together. We don't believe in a zero-sum situation. It doesn't mean that if we don't win, the party that wins becomes the enemy. In fact, we look on them as our allies, and we are very happy that our allies are well represented in their states.

In terms of some kind of dialogue at some point, I was around when you had the first of two sessions of dialogue back in 1994, and when the talks broke down, that was it. Has anything moved closer to dialogue since then? Are there any kinds of initiatives going on behind the scenes?
Regarding dialogue, whatever we have to say about it we will say officially, so I'm afraid we won't say anything that is not an official party statement.

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