‘We need to be friends of both’: Aung San Suu Kyi speaks on China, the US, corruption and free speech
Speaking at a small group interview on the sidelines of the Rotary Global Peace Forum in Honolulu, Myanmar opposition leader and democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi said China's political direction should ultimately be decided by the Chinese people.
On relations with China and the United States:
“I shouldn’t think [Myanmar’s relations with China] will change because you have to remember that we always have a very good relationship with China from the very beginning of the Communist government there.
“At that time, Burma [Myanmar] is practicing democracy, not a perfect one, but working towards democracy, but even then, we maintained very good relations with our neighbours including China.
“I don’t think it needs to be an exclusive relationship [with the United States]. It doesn’t mean we have to be friends with either the US or China. We need to be friends of both. China is a neighbour and the US is a very, very powerful nation that is eager to help an emerging democracy.”
On corruption problems:
“Recently I have been discussing the corruption problems in Burma [Myanmar] with quite a lot of high-level officials and many of them say, well, if you can prove somebody is corrupt or has been engaged in corrupt practices, you can provide evidence. We shall sack them.
“I said it is not just about sacking people who are corrupt. We have to find out why so many of our civil servants are corrupt and try to correct the situation.
“Actually if we sack all of our civil servants who are corrupt, we would have few officials [left] so we have to find why they are obliged to engage in bribery and corruption in the first place.”
On China’s political prospect:
“I don’t think Burma [Myanmar] alone will be able to bring changes to a big and ancient country like China. It is the people of China who will decide in which direction they want the country to go.
“I think it will be very presumptuous that Burma [Myanmar] could tell China where to go. We are just starting on our road to democracy and we haven’t even gotten there yet. We can’t start thinking about how to help other people to achieve democracy before we achieve it for ourselves.”
On freedom of speech:
“Freedom of thought is, in many ways, a habit. You must learn to ask [the government] questions and ask why. If you want to change things, you must get to the root of the trouble.”