Aung San Suu Kyi

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Concepts such as truth, justice and compassion cannot be dismissed as trite when these are often the only bulwarks which stand against ruthless power.

Daw Aung San Suu Kyi (born 19 June 1945) is a Burmese politician, diplomat, author, and a 1991 Nobel Peace Prize laureate who served as State Counsellor of Myanmar (equivalent to a prime minister) and Minister of Foreign Affairs from 2016 to 2021. She has served as the chairperson of the National League for Democracy (NLD) since 2011, having been the general secretary from 1988 to 2011. She played a vital role in Myanmar's transition from military junta to partial democracy in the 2010s. She is a non-violent pro-democracy social activist and winner of the 1990 Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought. Since 2017 she has been widely criticized for silence and inaction regarding the 2016 - 2017 persecutions of the Rohingya people.


It would be difficult to dispel ignorance unless there is freedom to pursue the truth unfettered by fear.
Please use your liberty to promote ours.
  • Revered monks and people. This public rally is aimed at informing the whole world of the will of the people... Our purpose is to show that the entire people entertain the keenest desire for a multiparty democratic system of government.
    • First public speech (26 August 1988)
  • Democracy allows people to have different views, and democracy makes it also -- makes us also responsible for negotiating an answer for those views. [...] So we would like to -- it’s not just a matter of debating the case in parliament and winning Brownie points or Boy Scout points, or whatever they’re called. But it’s just a case of standing up for what we think our country needs. And we would like to talk to those who disagree with us. That, again, is what democracy is about. You talk to those who disagree with you; you don’t beat them down. You exchange views. And you come to a compromise, a settlement that would be best for the country. I’ve always said that dialogues and debates are not aimed at achieving victory for one particular party or the other, but victory for our people as a whole. [...] We want to build up a strong foundation for national reconciliation, which means reconciliation not just between the different ethnic groups and between different religious groups, but between different ideas -- for example, between the idea of military supremacy and the idea of civilian authority over the military, which is the foundation of democracy.
  • Our struggle for democracy has been carried out with a strong grasp on the principle of nonviolence. And also, we believe in the rule of law. So if you ask how do we propose to resolve all of these problems of violence between communities, between different ethnic groups, we've got to start with rule of law. People have to feel secure before they can start talking to one another. We cannot achieve harmony without security. People who feel threatened are not going to sit down and sort out their problems. So I would like to recommend, as the chair of the Rule of Law and Tranquility Committee -- don't forget that tranquility is also included -- that the government should look to rule of law. It is the duty of the government to make all our people feel secure, and it is the duty of our people to learn to live in harmony with one another.

In Quest of Democracy (1991)[edit]

The root of a nation's misfortunes has to be sought in the moral failings of the government.
Those who govern should be wholly bound by the truth in thought, word and deed.
Each man has in him the potential to realize the truth through his own will and endeavour and to help others to realize it. Human life therefore is infinitely precious.
The true measure of the justice of a system is the amount of protection it guarantees to the weakest.
Where there is no justice there can be no secure peace.
Just laws which uphold human rights are the necessary foundation of peace
In Quest of Democracy (1991)
  • The root of a nation's misfortunes has to be sought in the moral failings of the government.
  • The good ruler sublimates his needs as an individual to the service of the nation.
  • While a private individual may be bound only by the formal vows that he makes, those who govern should be wholly bound by the truth in thought, word and deed.
  • It is undeniably easier to ignore the hardships of those who are too weak to demand their rights than to respond sensitively to their needs. To care is to accept responsibility, to dare to act in accordance with the dictum that the ruler is the strength of the helpless.
  • The royal duty of non-opposition is a reminder that the legitimacy of government is founded on the consent of the people, who may withdraw their mandate at any time if they lose confidence in the ability of the ruler to serve their best interests.
  • It is a strong argument for democracy that governments regulated by principles of accountability, respect for public opinion and the supremacy of just laws are more likely than an all-powerful ruler or ruling class, uninhibited by the need to honour the will of the people, to observe the traditional duties of Buddhist kingship. Traditional values serve both to justify and to decipher popular expectations of democratic government.
  • Each man has in him the potential to realize the truth through his own will and endeavour and to help others to realize it. Human life therefore is infinitely precious.
  • But despotic governments do not recognize the precious human component of the state, seeing its citizens only as a faceless, mindless - and helpless - mass to be manipulated at will. It is as though people were incidental to a nation rather than its very life-blood. Patriotism, which should be the vital love and care of a people for their land, is debased into a smokescreen of hysteria to hide the injustices of authoritarian rulers who define the interests of the state in terms of their own limited interests.
  • Weak logic, inconsistencies and alienation from the people are common features of authoritarianism. The relentless attempts of totalitarian regimes to prevent free thought and new ideas and the persistent assertion of their own rightness bring on them an intellectual stasis which they project on to the nation at large. Intimidation and propaganda work in a duet of oppression, while the people, lapped in fear and distrust, learn to dissemble and to keep silent. And all the time the desire grows for a system which will lift them from the position of 'rice-eating robots' to the status of human beings who can think and speak freely and hold their heads high in the security of their rights.
  • Hope and optimism are irrepressible but there is a deep underlying premonition that the opposition to change is likely to be vicious. Often the anxious question is asked: will such an oppressive regime really give us democracy? And the answer has to be: democracy, like liberty, justice and other social and political rights, is not 'given', it is earned through courage, resolution and sacrifice.
  • Revolutions generally reflect the irresistible impulse for necessary changes which have been held back by official policies or retarded by social apathy. The institutions and practices of democracy provide ways and means by which such changes could be effected without recourse to violence. But change is anathema to authoritarianism, which will tolerate no deviation from rigid policies. Democracy acknowledges the right to differ as well as the duty to settle differences peacefully. Authoritarian governments see criticism of their actions and doctrines as a challenge to combat. Opposition is equated with 'confrontation', which is interpreted as violent conflict. Regimented minds cannot grasp the concept of confrontation as an open exchange of major differences with a view to settlement through genuine dialogue. The insecurity of power based on coercion translates into a need to crush all dissent. Within the framework of liberal democracy, protest and dissent can exist in healthy counterpart with orthodoxy and conservatism, contained by a general recognition of the need to balance respect for individual rights with respect for law and order.
  • The words 'law and order' have so frequently been misused as an excuse for oppression that the very phrase has become suspect in countries which have known authoritarian rule. [...] There is no intrinsic virtue to law and order unless 'law' is equated with justice and 'order' with the discipline of a people satisfied that justice has been done. Law as an instrument of state oppression is a familiar feature of totalitarianism. Without a popularly elected legislature and an independent judiciary to ensure due process, the authorities can enforce as 'law' arbitrary decrees that are in fact flagrant negations of all acceptable norms of justice. There can be no security for citizens in a state where new 'laws' can be made and old ones changed to suit the convenience of the powers that be. The iniquity of such practices is traditionally recognized by the precept that existing laws should not be set aside at will.
  • The true measure of the justice of a system is the amount of protection it guarantees to the weakest.
  • Where there is no justice there can be no secure peace.
  • The Universal Declaration of Human Rights recognizes that 'if man is not to be compelled to have recourse, as a last resort, to rebellion against tyranny and oppression', human rights should be protected by the rule of law. That just laws which uphold human rights are the necessary foundation of peace and security would be denied only by closed minds which interpret peace as the silence of all opposition and security as the assurance of their own power.
  • In a revolutionary movement there is always the danger that political exigencies might obscure, or even nullify, essential spiritual aims. A firm insistence on the inviolability and primacy of such aims is not mere idealism but a necessary safeguard against an Animal Farm syndrome where the new order after its first flush of enthusiastic reforms takes on the murky colours of the very system it has replaced.
  • The unhappy legacies of authoritarianism can be removed only if the concept of absolute power as the basis of government is replaced by the concept of confidence as the mainspring of political authority: the confidence of the people in their right and ability to decide the destiny of their nation, mutual confidence between the people and their leaders and, most important of all, confidence in the principles of justice, liberty and human rights.
  • There is an instinctive understanding that the cultural, social and political development of a nation is a dynamic process which has to be given purpose and direction by drawing on tradition as well as by experiment, innovation and a willingness to evaluate both old and new ideas objectively.

Freedom from Fear (1991)[edit]

Acceptance message for the 1990 Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought (July 1991)
  • It is not power that corrupts but fear. Fear of losing power corrupts those who wield it and fear of the scourge of power corrupts those who are subject to it. Most Burmese are familiar with the four a-gati, the four kinds of corruption. Chanda-gati, corruption induced by desire, is deviation from the right path in pursuit of bribes or for the sake of those one loves. Dosa-gati is taking the wrong path to spite those against whom one bears ill will, and moga-gati is aberration due to ignorance. But perhaps the worst of the four is bhaya-gati, for not only does bhaya, fear, stifle and slowly destroy all sense of right and wrong, it so often lies at the root of the other three kinds of corruption. Just as chanda-gati, when not the result of sheer avarice, can be caused by fear of want or fear of losing the goodwill of those one loves, so fear of being surpassed, humiliated or injured in some way can provide the impetus for ill will. And it would be difficult to dispel ignorance unless there is freedom to pursue the truth unfettered by fear. With so close a relationship between fear and corruption it is little wonder that in any society where fear is rife corruption in all forms becomes deeply entrenched.
  • The effort necessary to remain uncorrupted in an environment where fear is an integral part of everyday existence is not immediately apparent to those fortunate enough to live in states governed by the rule of law. Just laws do not merely prevent corruption by meting out impartial punishment to offenders. They also help to create a society in which people can fulfil the basic requirements necessary for the preservation of human dignity without recourse to corrupt practices. Where there are no such laws, the burden of upholding the principles of justice and common decency falls on the ordinary people. It is the cumulative effect on their sustained effort and steady endurance which will change a nation where reason and conscience are warped by fear into one where legal rules exist to promote man's desire for harmony and justice while restraining the less desirable destructive traits in his nature.
  • In an age when immense technological advances have created lethal weapons which could be, and are, used by the powerful and the unprincipled to dominate the weak and the helpless, there is a compelling need for a closer relationship between politics and ethics at both the national and international levels. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights of the United Nations proclaims that 'every individual and every organ of society' should strive to promote the basic rights and freedoms to which all human beings regardless of race, nationality or religion are entitled. But as long as there are governments whose authority is founded on coercion rather than on the mandate of the people, and interest groups which place short-term profits above long-term peace and prosperity, concerted international action to protect and promote human rights will remain at best a partially realized struggle.
  • The quintessential revolution is that of the spirit, born of an intellectual conviction of the need for change in those mental attitudes and values which shape the course of a nation's development. A revolution which aims merely at changing official policies and institutions with a view to an improvement in material conditions has little chance of genuine success. Without a revolution of the spirit, the forces which produced the iniquities of the old order would continue to be operative, posing a constant threat to the process of reform and regeneration. It is not enough merely to call for freedom, democracy and human rights. There has to be a united determination to persevere in the struggle, to make sacrifices in the name of enduring truths, to resist the corrupting influences of desire, ill will, ignorance and fear.
  • Among the basic freedoms to which men aspire that their lives might be full and uncramped, freedom from fear stands out as both a means and an end. A people who would build a nation in which strong, democratic institutions are firmly established as a guarantee against state-induced power must first learn to liberate their own minds from apathy and fear.
  • Gandhi, that great apostle of non-violence, and Aung San, the founder of a national army, were very different personalities, but as there is an inevitable sameness about the challenges of authoritarian rule anywhere at any time, so there is a similarity in the intrinsic qualities of those who rise up to meet the challenge.
  • Fearlessness may be a gift but perhaps more precious is the courage acquired through endeavour, courage that comes from cultivating the habit of refusing to let fear dictate one's actions, courage that could be described as "grace under pressure" — grace which is renewed repeatedly in the face of harsh, unremitting pressure.
  • Within a system which denies the existence of basic human rights, fear tends to be the order of the day. Fear of imprisonment, fear of torture, fear of death, fear of losing friends, family, property or means of livelihood, fear of poverty, fear of isolation, fear of failure. A most insidious form of fear is that which masquerades as common sense or even wisdom, condemning as foolish, reckless, insignificant or futile the small, daily acts of courage which help to preserve man's self-respect and inherent human dignity. It is not easy for a people conditioned by fear under the iron rule of the principle that might is right to free themselves from the enervating miasma of fear. Yet even under the most crushing state machinery courage rises up again and again, for fear is not the natural state of civilized man.
  • The wellspring of courage and endurance in the face of unbridled power is generally a firm belief in the sanctity of ethical principles combined with a historical sense that despite all setbacks the condition of man is set on an ultimate course for both spiritual and material advancement. It is his capacity for self-improvement and self-redemption which most distinguishes man from the mere brute. At the root of human responsibility is the concept of perfection, the urge to achieve it, the intelligence to find a path towards it, and the will to follow that path if not to the end at least the distance needed to rise above individual limitations and environmental impediments. It is man's vision of a world fit for rational, civilized humanity which leads him to dare and to suffer to build societies free from want and fear. Concepts such as truth, justice and compassion cannot be dismissed as trite when these are often the only bulwarks which stand against ruthless power.

Opening Keynote Address at NGO Forum on Women, Beijing China (1995)[edit]

"Opening Keynote Address at NGO Forum on Women, Beijing " in the Video recording August 31, 1995 (august 31, 1995)
  • It is a wonderful but daunting task that has fallen on me to say few words by way of opening this Forum, the greatest concourse of women (joined by a few brave men!) that has ever gathered on our planet. I want to try and voice some of the common hopes which firmly unite us in all our splendid diversity.
  • But first I would like to explain why I cannot be with you in person today. Last month I was released from almost six years of house arrest. The regaining of my freedom has in turn imposed a duty on me to work for the freedom of other women and men in my country who have suffered far more -- and who continue to suffer far more -- than I have. It is this duty which prevents me from joining you today. Even sending this message to you has not been without difficulties. But the help of those who believe in international cooperation and freedom of expression has enabled me to overcome the obstacles. They made it possible for me to make a small contribution to this great celebration of the struggle of women to mould their own destiny and to influence the fate of our global village.
  • The opening plenary of this Forum will be presenting an overview of the global forces affecting the quality of life of the human community and the challenges they pose for the global community as a whole and for women in particular as we approach the twenty-first century. However, with true womanly understanding, the Convener of this Forum suggested that among these global forces and challenges, I might wish to concentrate on those matters which occupy all my waking thoughts these days: peace, security, human rights and democracy. I would like to discuss these issues particularly in the context of the participation of women in politics and governance.
  • For millennia women have dedicated themselves almost exclusively to the task of nurturing, protecting and caring for the young and the old, striving for the conditions of peace that favour life as a whole. To this can be added the fact that, to the best of my knowledge, no war was ever started by women. But it is women and children who have always suffered most in situations of conflict. Now that we are gaining control of the primary historical role imposed on us of sustaining life in the context of the home and family, it is time to apply in the arena of the world the wisdom and experience thus gained in activities of peace over so many thousands of years. The education and empowerment of women throughout the world cannot fail to result in a more caring, tolerant, just and peaceful life for all.
  • If to these universal benefits of the growing emancipation of women can be added to the "peace dividend" for human development offered by the end of the Cold War, spending less on the war toys of grown men and much more on the urgent needs of humanity as a whole, then truly the next millennia will be an age the like of which has never been seen in human history. But there still remain many obstacles to be overcome before we can achieve this goal. And not least among those obstacles are intolerance and insecurity.
  • This year is the International Year for Tolerance. The United Nations has recognized that "tolerance, human rights, democracy and peace are closely related. Without tolerance, the foundations form democracy and respect for human rights cannot be strengthened, and the achievement of peace will remain elusive." My own experience during the years I have been engaged in the democracy movement of Burma has convinced me of the need to emphasize the positive aspect of tolerance. It is not enough simply to "live and let live": genuine tolerance requires an active effort to try to understand the point of view of others; it implies broad-mindedness and vision, as well as confidence in one's own ability to meet new challenges without resorting to intransigence or violence. In societies where men are truly confident of their own worth women are not merely "tolerated", they are valued. Their opinions are listened to with respect, they are given their rightful place in shaping the society in which they live.
  • There is an outmoded Burmese proverb still recited by men who wish to deny that women too can play a part in bringing necessary change and progress to their society: "The dawn rises only when the rooster crows." But Burmese people today are well aware of the scientific reasons behind the rising of dawn and the falling of dusk. And the intelligent rooster surely realizes that it is because dawn comes that it crows and not the other way round. It crows to welcome the light that has come to relieve the darkness of night. It is not the prerogative of men alone to bring light to this world: women with their capacity for compassion and self-sacrifice, their courage and perseverance, have done much to dissipate the darkness of intolerance and hate, suffering and despair.
  • Often the other side of the coin of intolerance is insecurity. Insecure people tend to be intolerant, and their intolerance unleashes forces that threaten the security of others. And where there is no security there can be no lasting peace. In its "Human Development Report" for last year the UNDP noted that human security "is not a concern with weapons -- it is a concern with human life and dignity." The struggle for democracy and human rights in Burma is a struggle for life and dignity. It is a struggle that encompasses our political, social and economic aspirations. The people of my country want the two freedoms that spell security: freedom from want and freedom from fear. It is want that has driven so many of our young girls across our borders to a life of sexual slavery where they are subject to constant humiliation and ill-treatment. It is fear of persecution for their political beliefs that has made so many of our people feel that even in their own homes they cannot live in dignity and security.
  • Traditionally the home is the domain of the woman. But there has never been a guarantee that she can live out her life there safe and unmolested. There are countless women who are subjected to severe cruelty within the heart of the family which should be their haven. And in times of crisis when their menfolk are unable to give them protection, women have to face the harsh challenges of the world outside while continuing to discharge their duties within the home.
  • Many of my male colleagues who have suffered imprisonment for their part in the democracy movement have spoken of the great debt of gratitude they owe their womenfolk, particularly to their wives who stood by them firmly, tender as mothers nursing their newly born, brave as lionesses defending their young. These magnificent human beings who have done so much to aid their men in the struggle for justice and peace -- how much more could they not achieve if given the opportunity to work in their own right for the good of their country and of the world.
  • Our endeavours have also been sustained by the activities of strong and principled women all over the world who have campaigned not only for my own release but, more importantly, for our cause. I cannot let this opportunity pass without speaking of the gratitude we feel towards our sisters everywhere, from heads of government to busy housewives. Their efforts have been a triumphant demonstration of female solidarity and of the power of an ideal to cross all frontiers.
  • In my country at present, women have no participation in the higher levels of government and none whatsoever in the judiciary. Even within the democratic movement only 14 out of the 485 MPs elected in 1990 were women -- all from my own party, the National League for Democracy. These 14 women represent less than 3 percent of the total number of successful candidates. They, like their male colleagues, have not been permitted to take office since the outcome of those elections has been totally ignored. Yet the very high performance of women in our educational system and in the management of commercial enterprises proves their enormous potential to contribute to the betterment of society in general. Meanwhile our women have yet to achieve those fundamental rights of free expression, association and security of life denied also to their menfolk.
  • The adversities that we have had to face together have taught all of us involved in the struggle to build a truly democratic political system in Burma that there are no gender barriers that cannot be overcome. The relationship between men and women should, and can be, characterized not by patronizing behavior or exploitation, but by METTA (that is to say loving kindness), partnership and trust. We need mutual respect and understanding between men and women, instead of patriarchal domination and degradation, which are expressions of violence and engender counter-violence. We can learn from each other and help one another to moderate the "gender weaknesses" imposed upon us by traditional or biological factors.
  • There is an age old prejudice the world over to effect that women talk too much. But is this really a weakness? Could it not in fact be a strength? Recent scientific research on the human brain has revealed that women are better at verbal skills while men tend towards physical action. Psychological research has shown on the other hand that disinformation engendered by men has a far more damaging effect on its victims than feminine gossip. Surely these discoveries indicate that women have a most valuable contribution to make in situations of conflict, by leading the way to solutions based on dialogue rather than on viciousness or violence?
  • The Buddhist PAVARANA ceremony at the end of the rainy season retreat was instituted by the Lord Buddha, who did not want human beings to live in silence "like dumb animals." This ceremony, during which monks ask mutual forgiveness for any offence given during the retreat, can be said to be a council of truth and reconciliation. It might also be considered a forerunner of that most democratic of institutions, the parliament, a meeting of peoples gathered together to talk over their shared problems. All the world's great religions are dedicated to the generation of happiness and harmony. This demonstrates the fact that together with the combative instincts of man there co-exists a spiritual aspiration for mutual understanding and peace.
  • This forum of non-governmental organizations represents the belief in the ability of intelligent human beings to resolve conflicting interests through exchange and dialogue. It also represents the conviction that governments alone cannot resolve all the problems of their countries. The watchfulness and active cooperation of organizations outside the spheres of officialdom are necessary to ensure the four essential components of the human development paradigm as identified by the UNDP: productivity, equity, sustainability and empowerment. The last is particularly relevant: it requires that "development must be BY people, not only FOR them. People must participate fully in the decisions and processes that shape their lives." In other words people must be allowed to play a significant role in the governance of their country. And "people" include women who make up at least half of the world's population.
  • The last six years afforded me much time and food for thought. I came to the conclusion that the human race is not divided into two opposing camps of good and evil. It is made up of those who are capable of learning and those who are incapable of doing so. Here I am not talking of learning in the narrow sense of acquiring an academic education, but of learning as the process of absorbing those lessons of life that enable us to increase peace and happiness in our world. Women in their role as mothers have traditionally assumed the responsibility of teaching children values that will guide them throughout their lives. It is time we were given the full opportunity to use our natural teaching skills to contribute towards building a modern world that can withstand the tremendous challenges of the technological revolution which has in turn brought revolutionary changes in social values.
  • As we strive to teach others we must have the humility to acknowledge that we too still have much to learn. And we must have the flexibility to adapt to the changing needs of the world around us. Women who have been taught that modesty and pliancy are among the prized virtues of our gender are marvellously equipped for the learning process. But they must be given the opportunity to turn these often merely passive virtues into positive assets for the society in which they live.
  • These, then, are our common hopes that unite us -- that as the shackles of prejudice and intolerance fall from our own limbs we can together strive to identify and remove the impediments to human development everywhere. The mechanisms by which this great task is to be achieved provide the proper focus of this great Forum. I feel sure that women throughout the world who, like me, cannot be with you join me now in sending you all our prayers and good wishes for a joyful and productive meeting.
  • I thank you

Please Use Your Liberty to Promote Ours (1997)[edit]

"Please Use Your Liberty to Promote Ours" in the International Herald Tribune (4 February 1997)
Investment that only goes to enrich an already wealthy elite bent on monopolizing both economic and political power cannot contribute toward égalité and justice — the foundation stones for a sound democracy. [...] Please use your liberty to promote ours.
  • Those of us who decided to work for democracy in Burma made our choice in the conviction that the danger of standing up for basic human rights in a repressive society was preferable to the safety of a quiescent life in servitude. Ours is a nonviolent movement that depends on faith in the human predilection for fair play and compassion.
    Some would insist that man is primarily an economic animal interested only in his material well-being. This is too narrow a view of a species which has produced numberless brave men and women who are prepared to undergo relentless persecution to uphold deeply held beliefs and principles. It is my pride and inspiration that such men and women exist in my country today.
  • When we are struggling against overwhelming odds, when we are pitting ourselves against the combined might of state apparatus and military power, we are sometimes subject to doubts — usually the doubts of those whose belief in the permanence of an existing order is absolute. It is amazing how many people still remain convinced that it is wise to accept the status quo.
  • We have faith in the power to change what needs to be changed but we are under no illusion that the transition from dictatorship to liberal democracy will be easy, or that democratic government will mean the end of all our problems. We know that our greatest challenges lie ahead of us and that our struggle to establish a stable, democratic society will continue beyond our own life span.
    But we know that we are not alone. The cause of liberty and justice finds sympathetic responses around the world. Thinking and feeling people everywhere, regardless of color or creed, understand the deeply rooted human need for a meaningful existence that goes beyond the mere gratification of material desires. Those fortunate enough to live in societies where they are entitled to full political rights can reach out to help their less fortunate brethren in other areas of our troubled planet.
  • Part of our struggle is to make the international community understand that we are a poor country not because there is an insufficiency of resources and investment, but because we are deprived of the basic institutions and practices that make for good government.
  • There are multinational business concerns which have no inhibitions about dealing with repressive regimes. Their justification for economic involvement in Burma is that their presence will actually assist the process of democratization. But investment that only goes to enrich an already wealthy elite bent on monopolizing both economic and political power cannot contribute toward égalité and justice — the foundation stones for a sound democracy.
    I would therefore like to call upon those who have an interest in expanding their capacity for promoting intellectual freedom and humanitarian ideals to take a principled stand against companies that are doing business with the Burmese military regime. Please use your liberty to promote ours.

Nobel Peace Prize Acceptance Speech (2012)[edit]

Nobel Lecture by Aung San Suu Kyi, Oslo, 16 June, 2012
Every thought, every word, and every action that adds to the positive and the wholesome is a contribution to peace. Each and every one of us is capable of making such a contribution.
Even if we do not achieve perfect peace on earth, because perfect peace is not of this earth, common endeavours to gain peace will unite individuals and nations in trust and friendship and help to make our human community safer and kinder.
  • To be forgotten. The French say that to part is to die a little. To be forgotten too is to die a little. It is to lose some of the links that anchor us to the rest of humanity.
  • Are we not still guilty, if to a less violent degree, of recklessness, of improvidence with regard to our future and our humanity? War is not the only arena where peace is done to death. Wherever suffering is ignored, there will be the seeds of conflict, for suffering degrades and embitters and enrages.
  • If suffering were an unavoidable part of our existence, we should try to alleviate it as far as possible in practical, earthly ways.
  • As you look at me and listen to me, please remember the often repeated truth that one prisoner of conscience is one too many.
  • The peace of our world is indivisible. As long as negative forces are getting the better of positive forces anywhere, we are all at risk. It may be questioned whether all negative forces could ever be removed. The simple answer is: “No!” It is in human nature to contain both the positive and the negative. However, it is also within human capability to work to reinforce the positive and to minimize or neutralize the negative. Absolute peace in our world is an unattainable goal. But it is one towards which we must continue to journey, our eyes fixed on it as a traveller in a desert fixes his eyes on the one guiding star that will lead him to salvation. Even if we do not achieve perfect peace on earth, because perfect peace is not of this earth, common endeavours to gain peace will unite individuals and nations in trust and friendship and help to make our human community safer and kinder.
  • Of the sweets of adversity, and let me say that these are not numerous, I have found the sweetest, the most precious of all, is the lesson I learnt on the value of kindness. Every kindness I received, small or big, convinced me that there could never be enough of it in our world. To be kind is to respond with sensitivity and human warmth to the hopes and needs of others. Even the briefest touch of kindness can lighten a heavy heart. Kindness can change the lives of people.
  • ‘Donor fatigue’ expresses itself precisely in the reduction of funding. ‘Compassion fatigue’ expresses itself less obviously in the reduction of concern. One is the consequence of the other. Can we afford to indulge in compassion fatigue? Is the cost of meeting the needs of refugees greater than the cost that would be consequent on turning an indifferent, if not a blind, eye on their suffering? I appeal to donors the world over to fulfill the needs of these people who are in search, often it must seem to them a vain search, of refuge.
  • Every thought, every word, and every action that adds to the positive and the wholesome is a contribution to peace. Each and every one of us is capable of making such a contribution. Let us join hands to try to create a peaceful world where we can sleep in security and wake in happiness.

Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought Acceptance Speech (2013)[edit]

Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought Acceptance Speech by Aung San Suu Kyi, Strasbourg, 22 October 2013
Respect for yourself must be the foundation of respect for others. It is only if you respect yourself as a human being and you have faith in your ability to achieve what should be achieved that you will be able to help others.
Why is one of the most important words in any language. You have to know why the world is the way it is or you have to want to know. If you do not have this curiosity and if you do not have the intelligence in order to be able to express this curiosity in terms that others can understand than we will not be able to contribute to progress in our world.
  • Freedom of thought ,…freedom of thought is essential to human progress. If we stop freedom of thought, we stop progress in our world. Because of this it is so important that we teach our children, our young people, the importance of freedom of thought. Freedom of thought begins with the right to ask questions. And this right our people in Burma have not had for so long that some of our young people do not quite know how to ask questions. One of the tasks we have set ourselves, in my party, the National League for Democracy is to teach our people to ask questions, not to accept everything that is done to them without asking why.
  • Why is one of the most important words in any language. You have to know why the world is the way it is or you have to want to know. If you do not have this curiosity and if you do not have the intelligence in order to be able to express this curiosity in terms that others can understand than we will not be able to contribute to progress in our world. How many of our people over these past few decades ever ask themselves why that had to submit to the authority of people who did not have the mandate of the general public. I do not think very many did. It was taken for granted that those who had power and authority could do exactly as they please. This was something that we could not accept.
  • Solidarity is a beautiful word because it means that you reach out to those who are different from you and who have to cope with different circumstances because we recognize that we all share the same human needs and same values. It is the values that count most of all. The value of freedom of thought, the value of democratic practices, the value of respect for your fellow human beings.
  • I have never claimed that democracy was a perfect system because we human beings are not perfect. We are not capable of producing a system that is perfect. But I think there is something nice and challenging about imperfection. If we were all perfect I think it would be a very boring world. But as it is because we have to cope everyday with our imperfections everyday can become a day of excitement. You wake up and say to yourself now which one of my many imperfections shall I work on today and that makes it very interesting and very challenging. But it is more important that we work on the imperfections of societies and of laws and of practices that truly hurt us as human beings, that erode the foundation of human dignity.
  • We all have to be responsible for ourselves. I accept the concept that respect for yourself must be the foundation of respect for others. It is only if you respect yourself as a human being and you have faith in your ability to achieve what should be achieved that you will be able to help others.
  • I’ve always said there’s no hope without endeavor. Hope has no meaning unless we are prepared to work to realize our hopes and dreams but in order to that we do need to have friends. We need those who believe in us. Friends are those who believe in us and who want to help us whatever it is that we are trying to achieve.
  • Unless we are free from fear we will not be able to give our children the kind of future that we would like them to have.
  • We have to all come together and create unity out of diversity that the destiny that [we ]build will be one that is right not just for now but for generations to come.
  • Whether we are Europeans, whether we are Asians, whether we are Africans, or Australians, or Americans, we are all one because of our shared common human values based on the belief that we have the right to the birth right of every human being which is a dignified and secure existence.
  • Security, freedom, dignity, if we had these three we could say that it has been worth while being born into this world and I would like all the young people of Burma and young people all over the world to be able to feel that it was right that they have been born into this world.
  • I would not like young people to ask this question, why were we born at all. I want them to ask every kind of question but for them to question why they have been born to a situation which does not assure them of their right to dignity and to freedom from want and from fear, that is not the kind of question I would want anyone to ask.

Quotes about Aung San Suu Kyi[edit]

Tyranny does not crumble by itself. Freedom must be demanded and defended, by those who have been denied it and by those who are already free.
  • When the Burmese government tries to blame the victims for the crime, and say that Aung San Suu Kyi and her party are responsible for their own repression, I can only reply that much the same was once said about Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Nelson Mandela and Vaclav Havel.
    The world is not fooled.
  • Aung San Suu Kyi serves as a reminder to us all that the commitment to nonviolence against aggressive violence, although deflected, cannot be ignored.
    • Oscar Arias Former President of Costa Rica Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, 1987
  • What you've got they can't deny it. Can't sell it, can't buy it. Walk on, walk on. Stay safe tonight.
    • Bono in "Walk On", a song dedicated to Aung San Suu Kyi
  • As a tireless champion of human rights and democracy in Burma, Suu Kyi inspires countless people around the world who strive for peace, justice and freedom.
    In the face of great hardship she has never wavered in her commitment to peaceful change.
  • Your determination and courage continue to inspire friends of freedom around the world.
    Like your courageous father, you symbolize the authentic aspirations of the Burmese people. History is on the side of freedom throughout the world and I remain confident that your cause will prevail.
  • For the past 25 years or so, Myanmar has been boiled down to a simple dilemma of the Lady against the generals. Free Aung San Suu Kyi, went the story, and all would be well.
    I remain an admirer, and can only imagine how any of us might change, fold or buckle under the kind of pressures she has been subject to. The woman who became, aged 70, state counsellor of Myanmar is not Mandela – but who really is? There is a lesson here for the media, civil society, diplomats, Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton and even U2. It is that we cannot afford to rely on simple narratives. To do so is to risk being unprepared for often messy realities. In order to truly secure freedom and democracy — and to protect human rights — we need a whole lot more than symbols.
  • For the Rohingya Muslims of Myanmar, news of the fall of Aung San Suu Kyi after the military coup was bittersweet. After all, no community had felt more betrayed by Myanmar’s civilian leader. When she came to power in 2015, the belief was that she would overturn decades of persecution and finally bring about peace and citizenship, following in the footsteps of her father, Gen Aung San. Instead, under her watch the military carried out their most violent operation against the Rohingya, embarking on a genocidal campaign of rape, pillage and murder in Rakhine state in 2017 and driving almost a million people over the border to Bangladesh as refugees. Standing before the International Courts of Justice in The Hague in the Netherlands in 2019, Aung San Suu Kyi, a former Nobel peace prize winner, defended the military action.
    • ‘We cannot hope for anything good’: Myanmar coup sparks despair for Rohingya, by Hannah Ellis-Petersen and Shaikh Azizur Rahman, The Guardian, (14 Feb 2021)
  • Any person in any country who believes in the power of good, anyone who believes in justice, will stand by Aung San Suu Kyi. Because Aung San Suu Kyi is one of the non-violent, compassionate leaders of our time.
  • Let the people decide, I've got nothing to hide, I've done nothing wrong, So why've I been here so long?
    • Damien Rice in "Unplayed Piano", a song dedicated to Aung San Suu Kyi
  • With her courage and her high ideals, Aung San Suu Kyi brings out something of the best in us. We feel we need precisely her sort of person in order to retain our faith in the future.
    That is what gives her such power as a symbol, and that is why any ill-treatment of her feels like a violation of what we have most at heart.
Suu Kyi now is a leader of a country. She is not any more a human rights activist. ~ Ronen Gilor
  • Suu Kyi's struggle is one of the most extraordinary examples of civil courage in Asia in recent decades. She has become an important symbol in the struggle against oppression.
    In awarding the Nobel Peace Prize for 1991 to Aung San Suu Kyi, the Norwegian Nobel Committee wishes to honour this woman for her unflagging efforts and to show its support for the many people throughout the world who are striving to attain democracy, human rights and ethnic conciliation by peaceful means.
    • The Norwegian Nobel Committee (1991)
  • In physical stature she is petite and elegant, but in moral stature she is a giant. Big men are scared of her. Armed to the teeth and they still run scared.
  • We wish to use this opportunity, on the occasion of Aung San Suu Kyi's 60th birthday, to reaffirm our solidarity with the people of Burma and their legitimate struggle for democracy, human rights and civilian rule.
    Our sister Laureate has spent almost 15 years under house arrest. Her determination and courage inspire us. We offer to her our heartfelt congratulations on this auspicious day.
    Many of us have witnessed sweeping political changes in our own countries. We know that change will come to Burma, too. The illegal military junta that rules through force and fear will yield to the power of justice. The people of Burma will control their destiny again. But we also know from experience that tyranny does not crumble by itself. Freedom must be demanded and defended, by those who have been denied it and by those who are already free.
  • When Aung San Suu Kyi was released, we punched the air.
    When she came to Dublin to thank Ireland and Amnesty International, we Irish could not have been more proud.
    When her party the NLD won a landslide in the elections and she stood her ground to become de-facto head of the country, an impossible journey seemed to be reaching its destination. We wanted to breathe a sigh of relief, but instead held our breath. She had built her reputation on her refusal to compromise her beliefs (as well as on the personal sacrifice that entailed), but forming a government requires a certain amount of pragmatism. We feared the military's brutality would be quick to show itself again if she overstepped the mark, and while hopeful for progress, we wondered if we would find ourselves once again campaigning for her release.
    But what has happened this year, and in particular these past months – this, we never imagined.
    Who could have predicted that if more than 600,000 people were fleeing from a brutal army for fear of their lives, the woman who many of us believed would have the clearest and loudest voice on the crisis would go quiet. For these atrocities against the Rohingya people to be happening on her watch blows our minds and breaks our hearts. … the violence and terror being visited on the Rohingya people are appalling atrocities and must stop.
  • Aung San Suu Kyi's silence is starting to look a lot like assent. As Martin Luther King said: "The ultimate tragedy is not the oppression and cruelty by the bad people but the silence over that by the good people." The time has long passed for her to stand up and speak out.
    We know that Aung San Suu Kyi has in front of her real complexities that the outside world cannot understand — but nor should we have to. The complexity of the situation in Myanmar she inherited from her father did not sway her to compromise her ideals back in 1998, nor should it now.  At some point, a fragile balancing act becomes a Faustian pact.
    We also believe we can't direct our anger solely in her direction. That plays right into the hands of those who are carrying out the violence. Min Aung Hlaing is not a widely recognised name outside Myanmar — it should be. This man is the Commander General in Chief of the Defence Services who answers to no-one when a security threat is declared.  While this in no way excuses her silence, Aung San Suu Kyi has no control, constitutional or otherwise, over his actions, and it is he who has authorised and overseen the terrorization of the Rohingya people under the guise of protecting Myanmar from terrorism. Condemning her and ignoring him is a mistake. If this horror of human rights abuses is to stop, and if the long-term conditions for resettlement of the Rohingya people are to ever occur, General Min Aung Hlaing and his military must be just as much the focus of international action and pressure as Aung San Suu Kyi and her civilian government.
  • When I heard Aung San Suu Kyi's address to both houses of Britian's Parliament in Westminster hall last week, what impressed me was the clarity with which she spelt out her vision for her country. But, throughout her speech, something kept bothering me and by the time she finished, I discovered what it was. What bothered me was that I could not think of a single Indian leader who could make such a speech. The Indian political landscape today has become a desert in which only the stunted progeny of stunted political leaders bloom. We need our political parties to throw up real leaders and we need a political discourse in which real political problems are discussed.
    • Tavleen Singh : Jun 24 2012, Not ‘Secularism’ again [1]

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