Suu Kyi Asks Artists to Expose How Reforms Have Stalled

By San Yamin Aung 25 August 2014

RANGOON— Opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi is urging Burmese artists and writers to help the world understand that their country’s political reforms have stalled and are not leading to democracy.

The chairperson of the National League for Democracy (NLD) met with nearly 100 artists and writers on Monday at the Royal Rose restaurant in Rangoon.

She said foreign governments were wrong in describing Burma as a democratic success story.

“We can’t get development unless the real situation is known. So I would like to urge artists to expose the country’s real situation publicly, and to show in a visible way that our country is not still on a real path to democracy,” Suu Kyi told the group of well-known writers, cartoonists, painters, poets, photographers, editors, translators, publishers and bloggers.

She said political activists had worked with artists to promote democracy since the 1988 nationwide uprising against the then-military government. “Only if we can change the spirit is it a real revolution, and only if we see democracy as a culture, not as a political system, can it be firm,” she said.

Among those in the crowd were prominent writers Chit Oo Nyo, Ah Yoe, Ah Kyi Taw, Juu and Ma Thida, as well as blogger Nay Phone Latt, artist Kyaw Thaung, cartoonists Myay Zar and Aw P Kyel, and the founder of Rangoon’s Free Funeral Services Society, Kyaw Thu.

Htet Myat, chairman of the Myanmar Writers Union, said writers and artists had opposed dictatorship for over 50 years but were imprisoned many times in the process, and that they continued to face restrictions today under the reformist government that took power in 2011.

He said he was disappointed earlier this year when Suu Kyi and other NLD lawmakers accepted the government’s proposed publishing law, which has been criticized as overly restrictive. “I would like to request a democracy leader and party that stand beside artists, poets, writers and the media,” he said.

Suu Kyi said Parliament’s passing of the Printers and Publishers Registration Law was a sign of poor communication. “I admit that with the print law, the NLD did not fully stand up for what we should have,” she said. “But the media didn’t negotiate with us. We agreed on that proposal because we understood that the ministry [of information] submitted the law after finishing its own negotiations with the media and reaching an agreement. It shows we need more connection to avoid misunderstandings.”