Suu Kyi wants active role of democracy in Myanmar

Myanmar`s democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi wants India to play a "more active" role in democratisation of her country and to "engage more" with her opposition party.

Updated: Dec 08, 2010, 10:50 AM IST

New Delhi: Myanmar`s democracy icon Aung San
Suu Kyi wants India to play a "more active" role in
democratisation of her country and to "engage more" with her
opposition party.

65-year-old Suu Kyi in an interview to a news agency also said that
India must live up to the reputation of being the biggest
democracy in the world and not be dictated by its commercial
interests in Myanmar.

Commenting on India`s growing economic-driven engagement
with the military regime, the opposition leader said she was
not against India`s engagement with Than Shwe`s ruling
military regime but wanted India to play an active role in
democratisation of Myanmar and have parleys with her National
league for Democracy party.

"We would like India to play a more active role in trying
to help in the process of democratisation of Burma and I would
like the Indian government to engage more with us... who are
working more with democracy," the Nobel peace laureate said in
the interview on phone from Yangon.

Suu Kyi India`s foreign policy towards her country was
dictated by it`s "commercial side" and urged the world`s
largest democracy to live up to its reputation by engaging
with her pro-democratic party.

"India`s role in previous decades has been aided firmly
by its reputation as the biggest democracy and it has taken
pride in this, but, perhaps, more attention has turned towards
the commercial side," she said.

Suu Kyi said she expected the Indian government "to look
beyond this commercial kind of view when it comes to Myanmar."
Suu Kyi, who lived in India in the 1980s, was released in
Yangon on November 13 after spending more than seven
consecutive years in detention.

Once a strong supporter of Suu Kyi, India began engaging
the Myanmar`s military ruler in the mid-1990s as security,
energy and strategic needs appeared to override concerns over
democracy and human rights.

India is eager to boost its investment in gas and
hydro-electricity projects in Myanmar and is eyeing oil and
gas fields and fears losing out to China in the race for
strategic space in Asia. It also counted on the military
junta`s help to counter ethnic separatists operating along
their remote eastern common border.

In July this year, India welcomed Myanmar`s reclusive
military leader General Than Shwe for a state visit and
offered a grant of 60 million dollars to build a road
connecting Myanmar with Mizoram and pledged 10 million dollars
for the purchase of modern agricultural equipment.

US President Barack Obama, during his trip to New Delhi
in November, criticised India for failing to condemn human
rights abuses in Myanmar but India justified its policy as
being governed by "strategic interest" and "political
compulsion" in the region.

The daughter of Myanmar`s assassinated reforms hero
General Aung San was released less than a week after the first
election in 20 years, dismissed by many as a sham for
cementing the military regime`s grip on power.

Suu Kyi was critical of the recent election process in
Myanmar conducted by the military regime and stated that "she
was disillusioned over the form of government."

"General Thang shwe did not contest elections. So, he
has not been elected as a leader. Elections have much to be
desired in Myanmar. The most optimistic people have said that
the election process was deeply flawed and there are many many
questions on the outcome of the elections".

Underscoring the importance of the military junta holding
a dialogue with her party, she said, "Once they start a
dialogue, we can exchange views and discuss ahead."

Suu Kyi, who became the torch bearer of Myanmar`s
democratic struggle in 1988 and has been forcefully confined
to her estate several times since then, added that freedom had
a different meaning to her.

"Being released and being free are two different things.
We still have many political prisoners who have to be freed
and there are too many restrictions on our people. All this
has to change before saying that yes, we are free," She said.

One of the tasks she has been fervently involved in since
her release has been to expand the network of her party,
declared illegal, and get on the dialogue table with other
pro-freedom groups in Myanmar.

"First of all, we are trying to expand the network of our
party and for that we need to also secure the freedom of
numerous other political prisoners. We will need to work with
other pro-freedom groups too. What I see around me is a lot of
suffering among the people of Myanmar," she said outlining
her action plan.

With Myanmar having no other pro-democratic face but Suu
Kyi`s for over two decades, she indicated that the next in
command would be someone from within the party but clearly
ruled out that her son Kim Aris, 33, would follow her
footsteps.

"I do not believe in family hierarchy in politics and I
think I have many many heirs within the party and other
democratic forces. My son is not involved in politics", Suu
Kyi said. After depending largely on the radio to listen to the
happenings around her for many years, Suu Kyi is now keen on
using social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter to
spread her word across.

During her detention, Suu Kyi had no telephone or
Internet access and only limited contact with the outside
world. "I have applied for a Internet link and I am keen that
this application is granted", she said.

PTI