Setting the Record Straight

Yesterday, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi did an interview via Skype at the Bush Institute’s event honoring the Freedom Collection. She said some very powerful remarks during this interview, but unfortunately some of the media coverage has had a very myopic viewpoint. (Though AFP and Reuters did a good job of reporting) I think it’s important that people look at the full transcript of what she said. Here is a section:

Q: Over the years the United States and other democratic countries have imposed democratic sanctions on the Burmese government to pressure for change, now that there seems to be some progress, at what pace should those sanctions be lifted? How does the U.S. provide rewards for progress without losing leverage for further change?

DASSK: I just heard from a news podcast this morning that Senator McCain is thinking of the suspension of sanctions, rather than the lifting of sanctions, this is a possible first step. I think that something similar to what has been done by the EU, that is to suspend sanctions but not lift all together. That is a way of sending a strong message that we will try to help the process of democratization, but if this is not maintained then we will have to think of other ways of making sure that the aspirations of the people of Burma for democracy is respected. I am not against suspension of sanctions as long as the people of the United States think that it is the right thing to do at the moment. I do advocate caution though, I sometimes feel that people are too optimistic about the scene in Burma. You have to remember that the democratization process in Burma is not irreversible. I have said openly that we can never look upon it as irreversible until such time that the military commits itself to democratization solidly and efficiently.

Q: Some in the United States are critical of the whole idea of sanctions as a tool to promote democracy, they argue that a policy of economic engagement and development assistance might have left the Burmese regime less isolated and that democratic progress might have come sooner. What is your view of the criticism of sanctions that sometimes emerges in America?

DASSK: I don’t quite see it this way. You must remember that one of the first motions tabled by this National Assembly which was elected in 2010, was the removal of sanctions. If sanctions had not been effective, politically at least if not economically, they would not have tabled this motion so early on. So I believe sanctions have been effective in persuading the government to go for change.

Sanctions have worked and it is up to Americans to decide whether they should stay.

United to End Genocide has asked their members to listen to the calls of ethnic minorities in Burma and call Assistant Secretary Campbell at the State Department to slow down the lifting of the investment ban.

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