An Interview With Aung San Suu Kyi
Burma’s Nobel laureate muses on the sweeping reforms in her country and whether she will be its president.
I understand that when you met with President Sein last summer he had your father’s picture prominently displayed.
When the military regime first took over, my father’s face was on the currency. It was gradually removed and replaced by the symbol of the USDP. All the photos of my father were taken down from schools and government offices. You were not allowed to put photos of my father in journals or magazines. The meeting without the picture would have meant less.
Were you surprised when you walked in?
I was, yes. I had not expected it. My father’s picture was in the center.
Did you and the president decide you could work together?
I felt I could work with him and I hope he felt he could work with me.
Your first foreign trip will be?
We have to get through the elections and we have to win as many seats as possible because there are only 48 seats going. And even if we win all of them, that’s only 48 out of 600.
So you are not traveling soon?
Not before the elections. I can’t just up and leave. We have to find out what the results are and how to organize ourselves.
Did Secretary Clinton invite you to Washington when she was here in December?
Yes, I would love to go to Washington as soon as possible. Has it changed much in the last 40 years?
Recently you have had many foreign visitors. Hasn’t your life changed drastically in the past year?
It doesn’t seem all that different, except much busier. I don’t have enough time to read.
Do you know how to use a computer?
I do. I learned to work on a computer years before I was placed under house arrest. Fortunately I had two laptops when I was under house arrest—one an Apple and one a different operating system. I was very proud of that because I know how to use both systems. I had no contact with the outside world. But I learned how to use different programs. I would make little invitation cards for myself just for fun. Just to learn how to use it.
You have emphasized the need for rule of law here.
Rule of law is very important. If there had been rule of law, those political prisoners would not have been condemned. As long as we do not have rule of law, people can be re-arrested.
Foreign investors want rule of law and courts.
I have been repeating this over and over. If you want good investors, you have to have clean, independent courts to make sure these laws are obeyed. Courts already exist, but you have to clean them up.
To create fair courts, to create a viable currency, to establish international banks—doesn’t the government need foreign assistance?
We really do need help from abroad.
Lally Weymouth is a senior associate editor of the Washington Post.