Aung San Suu Kyi aims for peaceful revolution

Aung San Suu Kyi speaks to John Simpson

Two days after being freed from house arrest, pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi has said that her aim is for a peaceful revolution in Burma.

Speaking to the BBC at the headquarters of her National League for Democracy, she said she was sure democracy would come to Burma eventually, although she did not know how long it would take.

She said she would take any opportunity to speak to ruling generals.

Her release came six days after Burma held its first election in 20 years.

Aung San Suu Kyi's party won the last election overwhelmingly but was never allowed to take power.

This poll was won by the biggest military-backed party, the Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP), but denounced by the West as being neither free nor fair.

'Dialogue process'

The BBC's world affairs editor, John Simpson, said several security officials watched the interview from across the street at NLD headquarters but did not intervene.

Aung San Suu Kyi said she did not want the junta to fall but to change and serve the country better.

"I don't want to see the military falling. I want to see the military rising to dignified heights of professionalism and true patriotism," she said.

"I think it's quite obvious what the people want; the people just want better lives based on security and on freedom."

But the pro-democracy leader also said she hoped for a non-violent end to military rule.

Aung San Suu Kyi

  • Born 1945, daughter of Burma's independence hero, General Aung San, assassinated in 1947
  • 1960: Leaves Burma and is later educated at Oxford University
  • 1988: Returns to care for sick mother and is caught up in revolt against then-dictator Ne Win
  • 1989: Put under house arrest as Burma junta declares martial law
  • 1990: NLD wins election; military disregards result
  • 1991: Wins Nobel Peace Prize
  • 1995: Released from house arrest, but movements restricted
  • 2000: Near continuous period of house arrest begins
  • Sept 2007: First public appearance since 2003, greeting protesting Buddhist monks
  • November 2010: NLD boycotts first election in 20 years and is disbanded; House arrest ends

"I think we also have to try to make this thing happen... Velvet revolution sounds a little strange in the context of the military, but a non-violent revolution. Let's put it that way," she said.

The 65-year-old also confirmed that she was not subject to any restrictions on her freedom.

But she said that she was fully prepared to take the consequences if the military government decided to lock her up again for what she said or did.

The Nobel Peace Prize winner has spent 15 of the past 21 years in detention. She was released on Saturday when her latest period of house arrest expired.

On Sunday, thousands of jubilant supporters gathered to hear her speak, as she urged Burmese people to unite.

The most senior American diplomat in Burma, Charge d'Affaires Larry Dinger, told the BBC the US wanted to encourage reconciliation between the Burmese government and Ms Suu Kyi but no more.

"I don't think it's for the United States to determine her course or Burma's course, frankly. From our perspective it's for the Burmese people to work that out," he said.

"And the role that perhaps we can best play is to encourage all sides - the various players in the democratic community and the ethnic groups, the government in (the capital) Naypyidaw, to work through their issues."

'Dialogue process'

Around the region, Asian nations have responded to her release with varying levels of enthusiasm, the BBC's Vaudine England reports.

Asia's democracies have issued statements supporting her in what they hope is a broader shift towards democratic reform.

"The next challenge now is how to ensure that Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and her supporters can become part of the solution to the situation in Myanmar [Burma], can be part of those who promote democratisation in Myanmar," said Indonesia's Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa.

Satoru Sato, press secretary to the Japanese Foreign Ministry, echoed that view.

"Now we are expecting the government of Myanmar to take further positive measures to realise the improvement of human rights situation and promote democratisation as well as a national reconciliation," he said.

Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva said it did not make sense "to think that one particular event would be big enough to signal some kind of radical change".

"The challenge more is to see how the post-election scenario shapes up," he said.

Thailand is one of the leading trading nations with Burma along with China, Singapore and India. Thailand also wants stability in Burma in order to reduce the flow of refugees over the border.

By contrast, China, Singapore and Vietnam, have said little about Ms Suu Kyi's release, our correspondent says.

Some analysts suggest that if Aung San Suu Kyi's release leads to a change in the sanctions against trade and investment in Burma, China's leading role in the economy could be challenged.

More on This Story

Burma's Transition

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