On the occasion of the presentation of the Collage United
Nations Award 2001 to Aung San Suu Kyi, a resolution was
passed by the committee members and by Dr. Sein Win,
Prime Minister of Burma, to re-fit the obelisks
the world with a golden apex on the occasion of
Human Rights day.
Ladies and Gentlemen
I am honored to be in Landshut to receive the Collage United Nations
Prize on behalf of our leader and Nobel Laureate Daw Aung San Suu Kyi. She continues
to be under house arrest today, but I can well imagine her pleasure in receiving this prestigious
award from Germany.
If Daw Suu were here in this historical town of Landshut, she would be saying what she had
said all along, that she is just a part of the democracy movement that has made many sacrifices
and given up many lives and that she is gratified to accept the award on behalf of all those
unsung heroes. And, I am proud to accept this award for her and by
extension, for the people of Burma.
Daw Aung San Suu Kyi is well known internationally for her struggle against
tyranny for freedom and dignity. There are also some aspects of Daw Suu, which
I believe should be mentioned here. But, before I continue with that, and
since some of you might not know it, I'd like to explain that I am her first cousin.
Her father General Aung San, the architect of Burma's independence, and
mine, U Ba Win, were brothers. Both our fathers were assassinated while at an
Executive Council meeting in 1947 just before Burma's independence. I have therefore
known Daw Aung San Suu Kyi all my life.
I am convinced that Daw Suu always knew what her role in Burma would be. She
had been preparing herself to help the people stand up for their rights. She
always knew she would be the voice of the powerless people.
For many, many years before the movement for democracy emerged in our country,
Daw Suu knew the people would be asking her to champion their cause and she
had prepared for that day. Her late husband Michael Aris confirmed this when he
wrote an introduction to Daw Suu's book, "Freedom from Fear." I quote, "She
constantly reminded me that one day she would have to return to Burma, that
she counted on my support at that time, not as her due, but as a favor." Daw Suu
then had asked Michael, "I only ask one thing, that should my people need me,
you would let me do my duty by them." The rest of her story is well known.
There is also another admirable quality to Daw Suu. She leads by example
particularly in instilling courage in the people of Burma. There have been
numerous threats against Daw Suu on many occasions, and the military even
caused physical harm to frighten her. Yet, she refused to cower or to be
silenced. According to her, "I speak the truth and one should not be afraid
when speaking the truth." She said in her essay, "Freedom from Fear," and I
quote, "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." She
continues to live by that unwavering conviction today.
It has been said that a leader thinks about today and tomorrow but that an
outstanding leader thinks about the day after tomorrow. And to her credit, Daw
Suu is a woman who thinks about the future in both her commitment to help the
people and the nation. She can also communicate that vision to others. One of
her most notable achievements in this context has been to steer the mainstream
democracy movement toward a nonviolent struggle.
Because our fathers lost their lives in a bloody assassination and perhaps due
to the influence of leaders like, Mahatma Gandhi, Daw Suu has publicly
declared that she wants to set a precedence of bringing about political change to Burma
through peaceful means. She has never deviated from this strong principle
regardless of what her enemies or her closest friends think. She continues to
be the strongest advocate of non-violence struggle. I have always admired her
In line with that belief, Daw Suu has sought a dialogue with the generals in
the ruling junta since 12 years ago, in 1989. After the 1990 elections, the
party she leads--the National League for Democracy (NLD)--won by a landslide.
As a legitimate leader of Burma then, she continued her call for national
reconciliation through dialogue.
After rejecting her calls for many years, the generals finally came to their
senses in October last year. Talks are now being held behind closed doors with
Daw Suu. The state run press has stopped attacking Daw Suu and the NLD, and
the military has released some political prisoners and permitted a few NLD offices
in the Rangoon capital to reopen. Although these developments are positive
they still do not go far enough. We have not seen any indication that a process to
restore democracy and human rights is underway. The generals still need to
deepen the talk process and turn it into a substantive dialogue for the sake of
the country and the people. The sincerity of the generals becomes questionable
because of the unnecessary delay in releasing prisoners and in taking other
appropriate action. Presently, prisoners are being freed in small batches of 10
or less and the releases come only at times when they serve the interests of
the general--like just before the visit of the UN Special Envoy. Hundreds of
political prisoners remain in prison today. It is time that the generals start
seriously accepting Daw Suu's offer for national reconciliation.
The world we are living in is increasingly shrinking today. International
travel has become faster, communication vastly improved, and access to huge
pools of information has become easier to us all. Things that we could not
have imagined a decade ago are already a daily fare today. In other words, the
world has become interdependent and an event in one part of the globe has an immense
impact on other nations and peoples.
The increasing interdependence between the nations of the world makes it even
more important for the international community to take a global approach in
resolving the problems facing individual nations today. The United Nations
today is taking a leading role to promote a culture of democracy and peace
globally. The goal to make peace, democracy, and human rights flourish
everywhere in our world is indeed commendable. But, without concerted global
efforts, particularly by countries where democracy is flourishing, it would be
impossible to attain that.
Lack of concerted international action will prolong human misery in many
countries. In this context, Burma's case is one of the most glaring examples.
It is a case where an authoritarian regime has used brute force to reject
people's wish expressed through elections. In order to silence the people, the
military regime has resorted to threats, coercion, torture, and imprisonment.
Millions of people, particularly democracy activists, continue to suffer under
the military's oppressive rule.
Governments and international institutions need to show greater willingness to
act if injustices are to disappear from this world. The very fact that
authoritarianism continues to exist in our midst serves as a reminder that
humankind needs to take that small extra step and make the world a much better
place for all to live in.
The people of Burma have been living under authoritarian regimes which have
little regard for democracy. These despotic rulers, as Daw Suu has said, "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." The
democracy movement has therefore been trying change the mindset of the generals, and it
has made some progress. The situation, with both sides willing, can lead to a brighter future
for the country.
I am therefore appealing to governments, especially to the German Government, global institutions,
and the international community to be wary at this stage of the Burmese generals' requests
for financial and material assistance. Given the interdependence of
the global community, individual nations deciding to initiate programs or engage with the
military regime in Burma will undermine many years of efforts by Daw Suu and the democracy
movement to bring political change to Burma. I earnestly appeal to the global community to
help restore democracy to our country by not relaxing existing pressure and sanctions until the
democratization process becomes irreversible in Burma.
We are gathered here today to honor Daw Suu with the prestigious Collage United
Nations Prize. This award, like others before it, will provide a fresh impetus and drive our
movement forward while contributing to Daw Suu's efforts to peacefully restore democracy and
human rights to Burma. The "Collage United Nations Prize" will invigorate people inside
and outside Burma who are struggling against the most difficult odds to seek freedom and justice.
With the help of the international community supplementing our efforts, I know we will succeed.
Last but not least I am much privileged on behalf of Daw Aung
San Suu Kyi and myself as well to express our sincere
gratitude to all of you, especially to Herren Oberbürgermeister
Josef Deimer, Regierungspräsident Dr. Walter Zitzelsberger,
Bezirkstagspräsident Manfred Hölzlein, Landrat Josef
Neumeier, Dekan Helmut Völkel, Stiftspropst Bernhard
Schömann, Bundestagsmitglied Horst Kubatschka,
Richard Hillinger among others.
Dr. Sein Win
National Coalition Government of the Union of Burma