MANDALAY —Aung San Suu Kyi has urged elected candidates from the National League for Democracy (NLD) to join hands with those once responsible for persecuting members of the party, telling them that forgiveness is a necessary step toward national reconciliation.
Speaking in Naypyidaw on Saturday, the NLD leader told party representatives from upper Burma to consider the possibility of working alongside their erstwhile political foes.
“Whatever mistake they have made in the past, we need to give them the chance to change, instead of seeking revenge. If they are doing nothing wrong at the present time, they can join hands with us,” said Suu Kyi, according to those present.
Party members at Saturday’s meeting said Suu Kyi had told them some people had worried that the NLD would seek retribution for the past oppression of democratic activists of against communities that had not voted for the party in the Nov. 8 election.
“When talking about boosting national reconciliation, she said some worried that the NLD would take action against them,” said Thant Wai Kyaw, who was elected in Sagaing Division last month. “But she said the NLD will give equal legal protection to everyone and would not oppress those who do not agree with the party.”
Suu Kyi met with elected representatives from Mandalay, Sagaing, Magwe divisions and Kachin, Shan and Chin states in two different meetings, also urging them to work for peace and rule of law in an effort to end civil wars in ethnic areas.
The meetings came a day after Suu Kyi visited former dictator Snr-Gen Than Shwe, reportedly at the military’s Naypyidaw headquarters. Though neither the NLD leader nor the former junta leader issued official statements, Than Shwe’s grandson Nay Shwe Thway Aung wrote in a public Facebook post that Suu Kyi had no desire for revenge against her one-time jailer.
Political analyst Dr. Yan Myo Thein said that while it was admirable that Suu Kyi was seeking to heal longstanding political divisions, it would take a long time for those who suffered under military rule to come to terms with the past.
“Although she has urged forgiveness, it is hard for the victims,” he said. “It needs time, negotiation and the building of trust.”
“On the other hand, we still can’t be sure that the generals won’t change their minds. To forgive and forget depends on what kind of democratic country we will be in the future and how effective this democracy is,” he added.