Burma democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi recalled the task of educating Burmese citizens to be responsible members of a free society during a speech at Harvard University on Thursday.
|Aung San Suu Kyi, the winner of the Nobel Peace Prize in 1991, took questions from students at the Harvard Kennedy School. Photo: Harvard|
“People need to understand they have the power to change their own community,” she said.
“On the day of the elections, you will be the equal of the president himself,” Suu Kyi recalled telling voters. "He will have one vote, you will have one vote. Use it.”
Suu Kyi said she's surprised when people say she's a democracy icon, but she lacks political experience.
“What do they think I've been doing for the last 24 years?” Suu Kyi said, adding that she was a founding member of her party, the National League for Democracy, and spent her time under house arrest preparing for her release and her role as leader of an opposition movement. Her party swept the country’s bi-election in April.
She emphasized the need to establish an independent Burmese judiciary to establish a genuine democracy, in talks at both Yale and Harvard universities.
“Once we can say that we have been able to re-establish rule of law, then we can say that the process of democratization has succeeded,” Suu Kyi said at Yale. “Until that point, I do not think that we can say that the process of democratization has succeeded.”
Burma’s judiciary is “practically non-existent,” she said, in her speech, which was broadcast live on video.
“And until we have a strong, independent, clean judiciary, we cannot say that Burma is truly on the road to democracy,” Suu Kyi said.
She said Burma would benefit from its late entrance onto the democratic stage.
“We can learn from the mistakes of the rest,” she said at Harvard.
At Harvard and Yale, students asked Suu Kyi what kept her going during her years of house arrest. She said “inner resources” and a focus on others are needed to face adversity.
“Whenever I heard people in distant places speaking out for our cause,” she said at Harvard, “I was encouraged.”