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  • Documents on Democracy


Burmese opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi was freed on July 10 by the military junta that had held her under house arrest since July 1989. Her leadership of the democratic opposition to Burma’s military regime earned her the Nobel Peace Prize in 1991. The day after her release, Aung San Suu Kyi addressed a large but peaceable crowd outside her home in Rangoon. Her statement appears below:

The official intimation of the end of my house arrest was conveyed to me verbally by Col. Kyaw Win in the form of a message from Sr. Gen. Than Shwe which was kind and cordial. There were three points to the message apart from the ending of my house arrest: 1) they would be happy to help me in matters of personal welfare; 2) if I wished, the authorities would continue to take care of security arrangements; and 3) he would like me to help towards achieving peace and stability in the country.

First of all, I would like to say I appreciate deeply both the tone and content of the message. I have always believed that the future stability and happiness of our nation depends entirely on the readiness of all parties to work for reconciliation.

During the years that I spent under house arrest, many parts of the world have undergone almost unbelievable change. And all changes for the better were brought about through dialogue. So dialogue has been undoubtedly the key to a happy resolution of long-festering problems. Once-bitter enemies in South Africa are now working together for the betterment of their peoples. Why can’t we look forward to a similar process? We have to choose between dialogue or utter devastation. I would like to believe that the human instinct for survival alone, if nothing else, would eventually lead all of us to prefer dialogue.

You may ask what are we going to talk about once we reach the negotiation table. Establishment of certain principles? Recognition of critical objectives to be achieved? Joint approaches to the ills besetting the country would be the main items on the agenda. [End Page 181]

Extreme viewpoints are not confined to any particular group, and it is the responsibility of the leaders to control such elements as threaten the spirit of conciliation. There is more in common between the authorities and we of the democratic forces than existed between the black and white people of South Africa. The majority of the people in Burma believe in the market economy and democracy, as was amply proved by the results of the elections of 1990. Those of you who read the Burmese papers will know that it is the aim of the SLORC [State Law and Order Restoration Council] to return power to the people. This is exactly our aim as well.

I would like to take this opportunity to urge the authorities to release those of us who still remain in prison. I am happy to be able to say that in spite of all that they have undergone, the forces of democracy in Burma remain strong and dedicated. I on my part bear no resentment toward anybody for anything that happened during the last six years.

This statement can only end in one way: with an expression of sincere thanks to people all over the world and especially to my countrymen who have done so much to strengthen my resolve and to effect my release.


On August 24, human rights advocate Harry Wu was expelled from China after being convicted of espionage and sentenced to a 15-year prison term. Now a U.S. citizen, Wu spent 19 years as a political prisoner in China’s labor camps (laogai) and had returned to the country in order to document prison abuses. On September 8, he testified before the Subcommittee on International Operations and Human Rights of the U.S. House of Representatives. An excerpt from his remarks appears below:

Mr. Chairman, there is no doubt that if I was not an American citizen I would probably be back in a laogai coal mine, or simply have disappeared. Of course, I am glad to be...

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pp. 181-184
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