In an interview
with the DVB today, the leaders of the 1988 generation
of Burmese students expressed their concern about the
future of the country as a result of the intensifying
pressure against the main opposition party, theNational
League for Democracy (NLD) led by detained Nobel
laureate Aung San Suu Kyi.
DVB staff Moe Aye talked to one of the renowned student
leaders Ko Ko Gyi:
Moe Aye: How do you, Ko Ko Gyi, feel about the present
pressure on the NLD members to resign, and the plan to
hold mass rallies to pressure the NLD, which we have
heard about, and which had been done before?
Ko Ko Gyi: What I understand and accept is that politics
is very delicate. It is a work to win over the masses
and their minds. It is a work that is aimed at winning
over both the physical aspect and the mental side of the
people. That is the essence of politics. We had
experienced many mass rallies which were held either to
denounce or to support issues prior to 1988 also.
Hundreds of thousands of people attended those rallies
at Kyaikkasan Grounds which we ourselves had to attend
because each household had to be present there and the
adults in our household sent us ? the children - in
their place because they were not free.
Those rallies only showed the quantity - in other words,
those were "hard power" only. But, how many among those
people were in support of issues both physically and
mentally or how many of those people represented the
"soft power"? That is most important. What proves my
line of argument is that in 1988, almost all of these
more than 100,000 people, including the members of the
only party in existence then, came down to the streets
to join the protests. The fact of the matter is, once
when a person gets involved in politics - whether to
bring about political change or development in the
nation - he will not get very far in doing either of
that without the wholehearted support of the people.
That is my understanding. Hence, whether one is forcing
others to resign or planning mass rallies, these are all
"hard power" acts or simply materialistic approaches.
Our country actually has strong Buddhist foundations and
Buddhism is a faith which gives priority to the mind.
According to our culture, the mind comes first in "soft
power", which is popular these days, if observed from a
Buddhist perspective. The physical and vocal aspects
come next. It is, therefore, very hard for me to
understand why materialist ideas - the use of force and
threat and giving priority to a small group - could
flourish in a country like ours, where Buddhist culture
is so prevalent. I try to understand the situation and
believe that it could not be the result of our culture
or something that originated from it.
Moe Aye: I see. As reported in the newspapers about
people resigning, how do you view that issue?
Ko Ko Gyi: Personally, the democratic system that I
understand is the establishment of a contract between
the elected representatives and the electorate. When
establishing that contract, as I have mentioned before,
there can be no threat or persuasion, and the process
must be carried out voluntarily and the contracting
parties must be physically and mentally sound. These are
the factors that legalize a contract. If resignations,
or objections, or expressions of support take place
because of threats or persuasion they cannot be legal
because the decisions were not made voluntarily by the
Moe Aye: You may say that the acts are not legal but the
other side is stepping up the rhetoric and even saying
at press conferences that the NLD can be declared
unlawful because they have proof, and so forth. Do you
believe that they will declare the party as unlawful and
if they do declare it, what will be future of the
Ko Ko Gyi: The fact is many parties have been abolished,
one after another, even before now. But, if they are to
abolish this party which not only has won 82 per cent of
the seats but also represents the people, then it would
also be tantamount to reneging on the pledge made by the
military at the time of the coup to build a multiparty
democratic system. At the same time, we believe that the
present leaders of the NLD are people very devotedly and
delicately trying to bring about peaceful change. They
have remained stoic and calm and have stayed on their
course despite criticisms by people who felt frustrated
with their approach. The consequences of destroying such
a party would be chaos. I cannot guess to what extent it
would happen but I am concerned about the unpredictable
response. Once an organized approach is destroyed, there
is a possibility that we will head for disorder. That is
something I would very seriously like to say.
A similar concern was expressed by another student
leader Htay Kywe about the oppression of the NLD.
Htay Kywe: What would happen if the NLD is abolished? Of
course, you can use force to destroy the NLD but the
real problems facing the country today are political
issues and if we are to negate the only option left to
resolve the problems through political means, then the
ensuing chaos and complications may create a situation
that will be uncontrollable by anyone.