In extended remarks before a group of Myanmar nationals living in Canada, State Counsellor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi explained elements of the ongoing peace process with armed ethnic groups, development challenges and the important religious and ethnic unity.
The talk took place on Friday at Toronto City Hall during a flurry of meetings in Canada that included a conference with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
“The main aim of my visit is to understand more about the federal democracy,” she said.
After being introduced by Toronto’s mayor, the State Counsellor said her delegation included representatives of the armed ethnic groups, the government and the Tatmadaw – all of whom were invited by the Forum of Federations. an international organisation founded by Canada to encourage state federalism. .
“We can exchange our views mutually here, and learn more about the challenges ahead. We found a lot to learn from Canada’s federal democracy process although it may not be as difficult as ours. We must learn how Canada has overcome its challenges as a firm federation, while understanding that challenges never stop coming,” she told the crowd.
“There are some quarters complaining about the lack of progress in our peace process. Yes, there is progress, and sometimes there is retrogress. Actually we must move forward and backward as necessary till reaching the aspired goal. Peace process of other countries too goes like this. In certain countries the process to restore peace and national reconciliation even takes centuries. We must follow their example,” said Daw Aung San Suu Kyi.
“Everywhere I go, I always answer the questions raised by the Myanmar expatriates, because I wish to provide them with the latest developments of our country to the most possible degree. Some lack knowledge about the prevailing situation as they are away from their motherland. Mostly, people want to know whether there are policy changes of the Foreign Ministry, whether visas are also available for Myanmars holding foreign citizenship and whether the politics-related blacklist is still valid,” she said.
“Actually answers can be found in the websites of our embassies,” she said. She explained that politics-related blacklisting has ceased and that the issuance of multiple entry visas depends on the person’s occupation. Under the new policy of the government in office, the main duty of diplomats sent abroad by Foreign Affairs Ministry is to protect and welcome all overseas Myanmar people whether they hold Myanmar citizenship or foreign citizenship without any discrimination. She urged overseas Myanmar people to contact their embassies, adding, the embassies on their part must warmly accept them.
“As regards the national reconciliation and peace process, she said the country has not even enjoyed a short period of total peace during the 70 years after independence was restored. Internal strife began on 4 January 1948 the day we regained independence. The internal strife has not ended yet. A lot of efforts are required. Peace process is not on a smooth path. In fact, we must pave the way by ourselves. It’s like building a road through forests and mountains. It will be only an earth road at its initial stage. Then we must gradually develop it into an all-weather facility,” she said.
She then spoke of the importance of road transport for the country comprising multiple ethnic races, saying that there must be yearly development in road construction.
“We have already held the Union Peace Conference – the 21st Century Panglong for two times, but haven’t won the 100 percent public satisfaction yet. It would be rather weird if the 70-year-old conflict can be solved with just two meetings. The main requirement is the strong mind and firm resolution,” she said.
“Everyone has the right to choose between the work of fueling disagreements and the work of fostering unity. Not only the participants of the peace process, but also the overseas Myanmar citizens and non-citizens have this right. Every individual can make a decision whether he is going to encourage unity for eternal peace or fan division. We are not just a multi-ethnic society, but also a multi-religion country. So, there must be unity and harmony in diversity. It is the goal of every nation,” she noted.
“Only unity can bring actual progress of a country. Mutual trust must be built, but it is not an easy job. NLD had stood as the Opposition for nearly 30 years. We were against the then government officials and staffs. Now we are working together with them. In our eyes, these government staff are also citizens. They too have goodwill for the country. With this belief in mind we work with them. But there are some who cannot be trusted. These people say that they are different. So it’s up to their attitude. But the basic conviction of our democracy movement is to restore peace and tranquility through unity of all citizens. Under the democracy all disagreements must be settled through peaceful means in the interest of the nation, “she said.