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
all over 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 for that.

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.

Thank you.

Dr. Sein Win
Prime Minister
National Coalition Government of the Union of Burma
Washington, D.C.