Burmese opposition leader and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Aung San Suu Kyi says the release of political prisoners in Burma cannot be separated from the process of democratizing the country.
In an exclusive interview with a VOA Burmese Service reporter in Rangoon, the Peace Prize laureate was asked how she could agree to cooperate with the government when about 2,000 political prisoners are still jailed.
Aung San Suu Kyi said one of the aims of trying to democratize the country is “so that there may be no political prisoners.” She said their release should not be a condition for talks, but that “by talking to each other and sorting out our differences, that could help us to hasten the release of political prisoners.”
The interview with reporter Khin Soe Win was made possible after the Burmese government allowed a VOA Burmese Service journalist into the country for the first time since 1995. The radio and television interview was conducted in English and Burmese.
Asked if it was time for western nations to consider lifting sanctions against Burma, Aung San Suu Kyi said if the reasons for the sanctions no longer exist, it would “indicate that real change has taken place, and that it’s time for a new approach.”
Questioned about what political role she would like to play in the near future, the opposition leader said she wanted to help establish a healthy political culture in Burma. “It’s not enough to have a transition to a democratic government” she said, “what we need are for democratic institutions to take firm root in this country and I would like to be able to help in this process.”
Voice of America’s Burmese Service is carrying the interview on radio, television and the web. The English interview is available at www.voanews.com.