Burma Must Work Together to Prosper: Suu Kyi

By Lalit K Jha 21 September 2012

WASHINGTON DC—Democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi on Thursday urged her countrymen to work together for prosperity while acknowledging that this might not be a simple task to achieve.

“What has happened in the past has taught us that if we want to succeed we have to work together and the whole future of Burma is before us,” said Suu Kyi. “If we are to ensure this future for the succeeding generations, we all have to learn to work together.

“Sometimes it is more difficult to learn to work together than to suffer individually,” the Nobel Laureate told an awards ceremony to honor her compatriot activists—Min Ko Naing, Hkun Htun Oo, Kyaw Thu, Dr. Cynthia Maung and Aung Din—hosted by the National Endowment for Democracy (NED).

However, Suu Kyi expressed confidence that her nation’s people and leaders would eventually meet the challenge of working together and developing a Burma “that is democratic, that is peaceful, that is united and that is free.”

Top American lawmakers including Nancy Pelosi, the former Speaker of the US House of Representatives, Senator John McCain and Congressman Joe Crowley gathered at Capitol Hill for the special ceremony, which was Suu Kyi’s last major public engagement in Washington.

Currently on a 17-day US tour, the 67-year-old now travels to New York and is scheduled to meet the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Friday before addressing the body’s General Assembly.

Speaking at the awards ceremony, the US Under Secretary for Civilian Security, Democracy and Human Rights Maria Otero said that the Obama administration is encouraged by the opening of political space by the Burmese government and the energy and fortitude of its people.

Suu Kyi spent her last day in Washington by addressing Burmese diaspora and human rights activists at two separate but well-attended events.

“In this day and age there are very, very few happy endings and very few success stories. So much seems to be happening that is disappointing, that is disillusioning all around the world. I want Burma to be the exception,” Suu Kyi said in a speech mostly conducted in Burmese.

Addressing a meeting organized by Amnesty International later in the evening, Suu Kyi praised the activities of the human rights community in supporting the cause of the Burmese people. “Prisoners become prisoners out of the fear of others—the others who fear that they will be troubled, that these prisoners are people who will challenge them,” she said.

Meanwhile, the White House refused to comment on reports that President Barack Obama might visit Burma when he tours the region for the Association of Southeast Asian Nations summit in November. “I have no foreign travel updates for you today,” the White House press secretary Jay Carney told reporters aboard Air Force One on Thursday.

Referring to the Obama-Suu Kyi meeting at the White House on Wednesday, Carney revealed that the pair covered a wide range of topics.

“I’m not going to get into specific items that were discussed,” he said. “But the fact is we are working with the government of Burma very effectively on a process whereby reforms undertaken by the government of Burma are met with actions taken by the United States in terms of easing sanctions and other measures.

“That process continues, as [US Secretary of State Hillary] Clinton has discussed. But we are actively engaged with President Thein Sein on this issue and his government, and we’ll continue to be engaged in that process,” added Carney.

In another related development, the United States and Indonesia agreed to enhance regional collaboration. Clinton met with her Indonesian counterpart on Thursday and agreed upon triangular cooperation projects including disaster preparedness training with Burma and a regional conference on empowering women, the State Department said.