Speech by H.E. Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, State Counsellor and Union Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Republic of the Union of Myanmar, at the Swedish Parliament, the Riksdag (Stockholm, 13th June 2017)
The Honourable Speaker,
Members of the Swedish Parliament,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
May I begin by thanking the Honourable Speaker Mr. Urban Ahlin for inviting me to join this traditional seminar for Nobel Peace Prize Laureates, and to address the Swedish Parliament.
Sweden, though very far away from Burma, was one of the first countries that registered in my childhood memory. My mother came here on a visit at the beginning of the nineteen-fifties and brought back with her a tiny Swedish wooden house with a red roof, a wooden horse, and a great appreciation of mother and child care programmes in Sweden, In retrospect, I am amazed that she was able to make me take an interest, albeit is very shaky one, in Sweden’s welfare state activities as I must have been only about 6 years old at that time. A few decades later, when Bjorn Borg became a household name. I had no doubt his prowess owed much to all that good Swedish nutrition and care may mother had spoken of with so much enthusiasm.
“Care” is the concept around which we would like to base our essential services to our people in Myanmar. A state that cares for the basic needs of people through the assurance of basic human rights, the provision of appropriate health and education facilities, and capacity building initiatives aimed at equipping them for the multifarious challenges of our rapidly changing world. We look to our people to join us in our efforts to build a solid foundation for a caring state that will be able to contribute significantly to peace, stability and progress not just in our region but throughout the world.
Since taking office in March 2016, our government’s aim has been to achieve national reconciliation and peace while also striving for sustainable economic development. Myanmar is a very young and yet incomplete democracy, and as we are a land of great diversity, the peace process in which we are engaged is extremely complex and challenging. There is a vital need to build up mutual trust and respect out of the tangled legacy of long-standing conflicts, some of which go back to the day we gained independence nearly 70 years ago. Our goal is a stable, democratic federal union, which will guarantee security, freedom and progress for all our people.
The first meeting of the Union Peace Conference – the 21st Century Panglong was held in August 2016. Three weeks ago, the second meeting of the 21st Century Panglong Union Peace Conference was completed and a Union Peace Accord, covering a number of political, social, economic, environmental and land policy issues, was signed. This we see as a significant step on our path towards peace, national reconciliation, and the emergence of a democratic federal Union. At the same time, we recognize that there is still much left to be done and that, as is usual in efforts to put an end to conflicts that have lasted for decades, it will not be a straight, smooth path to peace.
The nature of our peace process and our efforts towards communal harmony and sustainable development is multidimensional. In a nation long plagued by political, economic and social woes, quick and easy solutions cannot be expected. Each step has to be carefully thought out, each agreement crafted with an awareness of the sensitivities of all who are a necessary part of our endeavours. We need sufficient time and space but, needless to say, we wish to find the speediest way to the best possible conclusion.
The need to bring peace and harmony to the Rakhine is one of our many challenges, multi-faceted in its need for a steady building of tolerance and friendship, for the full protection of rights that only a truly democratic system can guarantee and for sustainable development that will ease the tensions imposed by limited resources.
So long as we are unable to achieve national reconciliation and national unity, we will never be able to establish a sustainable, progressive society. Only peace and stability will enable our people to realize their potential. A Myanmar that is at peace, will be able to stand on an equal footing with other countries across the globe and the energy, faith and effort that our people have put into the achievement of peace and national reconciliation can be a beacon of hope for other countries and peoples who wish to resolve political and social problems through peaceful means rooted in positive values. We have started on the path to a lasting peace through the 21st Century Panglong Conference. Through unity, empathy, solidarity and the Panglong spirit, we will strive to overcome the challenges that we encounter along the way.
Myanmar’s long struggle for democracy and peace has not yet come to an end. When we started out on the journey nearly thirty years ago, we did not imagine it would be an easy one. But we never doubted that it was necessary endeavor, necessary for the many peoples of our country. The journey continues, as we seek to forge unity out of diversity, to weave the strands of different ethnicities, communities and aspirations into a vibrant tapestry of beauty and durability. Threading through all these endeavours is the vital need to align our Constitution and other laws with acceptable norms of democratic governance, never losing sight of our final goal: a true democratic Federal Union.
I have always considered that the Nobel Prize awarded to me as a recognition of the passionate longing of the people of Burma for peace: peace born of freedom from fear, peace born of national harmony and reconciliation, a deep peace that will be kneaded into the very soil of our beloved land as a lasting legacy for future generations.
During the long years of our quest for democracy, I have often been asked: “how soon will we get democracy?” My standard answer was: “ask yourself how much you are doing to reach our goal. The more you are doing, the quicker we will get there.” It is interesting that those who were deeply committed to, and actively involved in the movement for democracy seldom, if ever, asked such a question. Now too, when I am asked when we will achieve peace, I answer: “ask yourself how much your are doing to win peace and you will receive the answer to your question.” I am happy to say that not many of our people ask this question. They ask more often: “What can we do to help bring peace and harmony to our country?” To those who pose such a question I am profoundly grateful. Their faith in our ability to achieve peace in our time is our strength. It is a promise that together we will be able to make our dream of a nation safe for all our peoples a reality.
And when peace comes to our land, I hope that our friends from all over the world who have stood by us in our times of adversity will celebrate our triumph as though it were their very own.