Daw Aung San Suu Kyi on Politics and Crises: In Quotes

By The Irrawaddy 26 September 2017

Amid international criticism over her approach to the Rohingya crisis, Myanmar State Counselor and Minister of Foreign Affairs Daw Aung San Suu Kyi held a diplomatic briefing and televised it for domestic and international audience last week. In the same week, she gave rare interviews to selected media outlets, focusing on the country’s political situation, especially issues concerning Rakhine State.

The Irrawaddy has compiled noteworthy extracts from the three interviews—with the Washington-based Radio Free Asia (RFA) broadcast, the Nikkei Asian Review and the New Delhi-based Asian News International (ANI)—which highlight the challenges facing her government.

Rohingya Crisis

“Regarding the current situation in Rakhine State, it has never been good, even since we took office. However, the issue has needed to be handled more delicately, lately as it has received extra attention from the international community. It is more difficult to resolve any problem when all are watching it.” – RFA

 “It’s a humanitarian issue, which has risen out of long-term socio-economic problems and politics of course. In the Rakhine State, go back to the 19th century, and periodically trouble has broken out there between the Muslim community and the Rakhine community. And we have inherited this very complex problem and we have to deal with it and have to resolve it. So, obviously, it is not something we can do overnight.” – ANI

Terminology Controversy

“I think that instead of using emotive terms, this term has become emotive, and highly charged. It’s better to call them as Muslims, which is a description that nobody can deny. We are talking about the Muslim community in the Rakhine state and other terms may be applied to that community but I do not see any point in using terms that simply inflame passions further.” – ANI

Rule of Law in Conducting Security Operations

“We have taken people to court if it has been found that they have broken the law or they have overstepped their conduct when they are carrying out their responsibilities. We have a very strong code of conduct that has been distributed to all the security forces and they have been instructed to follow them very closely. – ANI

“If you’re going to try to work in accordance with the rule of law, you have to have proper evidence, acceptable evidence—not just hearsay, or not just something that might be considered evidence. It has to be acceptable in a court of law.” – Nikkei Asian Review

Repatriation of Rohingya Refugees

“We can start quickly; it doesn’t mean it will be completed quickly … we can begin any time, because this is nothing new. The criteria for the verification process [was] laid down in 1993 by the Bangladeshi and Myanmar government[s]; so there’s nothing new and the Bangladeshi government has agreed to it. It can literally begin any minute … When it begins will depend as much on the Bangladeshi government as on us. We cannot go in and carry out a process in their country unless they are willing.” – Nikkei Asian Review


“Counter-terrorism is something that we have to take very seriously. And I have to confess that our country has not had experiments with regard to counter-terrorism.” – ANI

“We don’t want to hurt those who are innocent and at the same time, we have to make sure terrorists are not allowed to carry on with their activities.” – ANI

Personal Reaction

“My true feelings are very very simple. I want peace and harmony in Rakhine. It’s the responsibility of every government to maintain a position of integrity and fairness. We have to be fair to all communities. We have always maintained this that we don’t condemn either of the communities. We condemn actions that are against the rule of law and that are against the humanitarian needs of all people. But we have never condemned communities as such.” – ANI

The Relation of Development and Investment to Conflict Resolution

“Socio-economic development is a very important part of the solution.” – ANI

“Those who are interested in the Rakhine situation from the outside will only focus on the Rakhine situation. But we have to carry on with the rest of the country — including the economy, health, education, development, peace process, everything. And we keep our eyes open to make sure that we are doing the best in every possible sector.”– Nikkei Asian Review

“It’s natural that they should be concerned about it. But they should step back a little and look at it coolly. They will be able to see that one of the reasons why we have problems like these is because of underdevelopment rather because of investments. So investments would actually help to make the situation better.” – Nikkei Asian Review

International Criticism

“Regarding how Myanmar people and the international community should view the current situation of Myanmar, I think they should view with a complete sense of responsibility. But what our citizens should know is that the main responsibility lies on them if they want their country to develop and have peace. But at the same time, they can’t ignore the international community. The world today is like a village. You can’t stay unconnected, and it is important to get along well with the international community. This is also a responsibility for your country. So, you have to take responsibility for your country, and global citizens also have to take responsibility for this world. If all have a sense of responsibility, there will be problems for no one. However, we can’t always see this sense of responsibility.”  – RFA

Foreign Policy

“We will maintain our policy of trying to establish friendly relations with all countries all over the world. Of course, we are always aware that Myanmar is not just Rakhine.” – Nikkei Asian Review

 Peace Process

“Frankly speaking, I didn’t envisage how the country’s peace process would go on; I believe it will be successful, but it will take time. Looking at other peace processes, none of them were smooth. So speaking of the peace process, there is no peace because there were the factors that caused discord from the very beginning. Removing those factors will never be fast.” – RFA

Citizenship Law

“It is up to the Parliament whether or not to amend a law. The Parliament is the representatives elected by the people. To amend a law is not a flippant matter. If we are to face the reality as it is, I expect there will be intense controversy over whether or not to amend it.” — RFA

Rise of Nationalism

“Hatred is never good. Promoting hatred in the name of Buddhism is quite contradictory to the Buddha’s teachings. Lord Buddha never supported hatred.” — RFA

Relationship With the Military

“It is normal.” — RFA

“There is appropriate engagement now. And I always try to cooperate on some issues.

We’ve already said that we’ll work toward national reconciliation. We’ve not criticized the Tatmadaw for being the Tatmadaw. We’ve only said that we don’t agree with this or that action carried out by it.” – RFA