State Counsellor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi said yesterday that, in her experience, regions and states that have endured conflict have a better understanding of the value of peace. She made the remark at a Peace Talk with Kayah State local youths in the State Hall of Loikaw in Kayah State yesterday morning.
“Peace Talk with youths has been held four, five or six times in different places. In doing these Peace Talks, youths from peaceful regions are seen to have lower understanding, knowledge and interest in peace. But in States/Regions where there is war or have just achieved peace, there is seen to be a better understanding of the changes. Peace Talks in such places go more deeply. Therefore, I expect the Peace Talk with youths from Kayah State to go in depth. The voices of the youths from here would be of interest to the whole country that is listening”, said the State Counsellor.
In her opening speech to the youths at the Peace Talk in Loikaw, the State Counsellor said the freedom that peace brings is sometimes misunderstood.
“Some think democratic rights allow you to say as much as you want. But democratic rights include respecting the democratic rights of others. You must not talk endlessly and one-sidedly. It is to be noted that others are to be given time to speak. It is good to prepare and bring along the points you want to talk. But you can also talk about anything that comes into your mind openly and freely. Sometimes, this is more interesting”, said the State Counsellor.
Eight youths from Kayah State then spoke about justice and peace, social issues, education, health, equality, human rights, all-round development based on federalism, armed conflict, sufferings due to war, national reconciliation, farmland matters, the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement (NCA), women’s matters, widespread participation of the people in the peace process and the maintaining of traditional culture and literature.
The following are excerpts from the youths who spoke yesterday.
U Shahrel, a public servant, shared his experiences with conflict
“Before, there was no peace. During the time when the ceasefire was not totally achieved, I lost my grandfather, uncles and cousins. They were lost while avoiding the war or participating in it. This had been experienced by other nationals who are here. Fear remains inside me from these events. This was what happened before”, he said.
“At the present moment, there are still restricted areas because there is no peace. Because these restricted areas did not have peace, we know that developments in education, health, economic are restricted and slow. I expect our state to be more developed in both rural and urban areas if there is peace. A question came to my mind. How will a solution be thought out for our region that hadn’t experienced peace? In working for peace, a question on how to make the people aware also came up. Finally I would like to say that if the peace demanded by the people is to be achieved, there must be justice (truth).
Without peace, there wouldn’t be truth. A country without peace wouldn’t be stable. Without stability, justice will be lost. I want our ethnic nationals to know this.
If peace is wanted, justice must first be obtained. We need to do this on our side and people who expected justice need to have the desire for peace. Especially, youths like us. Youths need to participate in the discussion.
I would like to say that in implementing peace, leaders like Mother Su has the duty as well as us, other ethnic brothers and sisters too and all need to work together for it”.
Daw Alice Tun, headmistress of Level Up Academy, a private school
“I want to discuss peace and state development. I learnt that there are two types of peace. First is a negative peace and the other is a positive peace.”
Negative peace is where there is no terrorism and war. Positive peace is where our basic requirements, people were satisfied. This is known as peace and tranquality.
As Shahrel said earlier, all knew how it felt in having a negative peace. How it is to have a negative peace.
As our state now has a negative peace that is free from terrorism and war, battles are declining and much development is happening. Social assistance groups like NGOs and INGOs came in.
There is much assistances and helps. Investments are also coming in. From this, there’ll be regional development.
On the other hand, for all-round development, we must head towards positive peace. It is too wide if we say all-round development. I would like to talk more about social development. It will include our basic requirements of education, health and livelihood. When we get justice, human rights and equality, we will have more peace. We can say we achieve peace and development, but locals will not be satisfied with the present situation.
If our natural surroundings are destroyed, if we do not have equal rights, if we do not get the benefits, we are not at peace. When thinking about development, the feelings (satisfaction) of the locals, participation and conserving the natural surroundings are to be included. In the long run, all are to live happily together, so national reconciliation is also important.
In conclusion, we should not create causes that will create peace to be disturbed in the future. We need to put emphasis on sustainable development. Whatever development is done, development based on federalism will lead to a sustainable peace”.
U Mario, a farmer
“I am just a farmer. I didn’t have a chance to attend school when I was young. I will say frankly what is on my mind. For me, I want to discuss the peace process of ethnic races. Actually, the peace process plays a vital role in our lives. Due to the civil war which broke out for 60 years, we had to live in a state of homelessness for many decades. Consequently I didn’t study hard, and the teacher punished me in class. That is why I felt nervous when I was in front of my teacher and other people.
I think that other ethnic races have the same feelings like me. The only thing that is rooted in our mind is fear, i.e., how to overcome fear. I request you to understand me. We value honesty and want to live a simple life. Whenever we open food shops, we sell delicious food and curries, out of respect, to our superiors as usual.
We suffered a lot, especially youths, old people and women, during the civil war. We felt frightened because of constant conflicts and violence which can cause severe damage. I feel that it is high time for the armed races to cease the civil war as soon as possible. I would like to urge them to stop at once”.
Daw Hnin Nu Wai, agriculturist
“The main thing I would like to point out is the “internal peace process”. First of all, we need to create trust-building, mutual respect and openness among our brethren. In this way, we can achieve perpetual peace in our society.
It is better to stop the conflicts and wars so that we can maintain peace and tranquility. As you also know, everyone wants peace. Peace is far away from us due to selfishness, hatred, thirst for power and exploitation. It is necessary for us to share loving-kindness with one another. All the public are well aware that we are orientated towards peace. We do need unity, mutual respect and negotiation in order to shape peaceful environment. Our country is changing into a democratic nation, and the NCA is very important to sign peace agreement. I am sure that our Tatmadaw will safeguard our people and nation.
Moreover, people should know the agreements of NCA and be entitled to participate in this process. I am very glad to participate in this talk. I want all youths to discuss in our dialogue. I strongly believe that we are marching towards the path of Democracy”.
U Soe Yazar Win, writer
“All of you know that there are equal rights and belief in our national anthem. The roots which can disturb the peace process are getting un-equal rights and policies which can lead to a ruined state. Without stability and peace, we cannot build a democratic federal state. We are in need of foreign investment and technologies to boost our economy and living standards. Moreover, we must re-open the schools and try to create learning opportunities for the children in this region”.
Daw Moh Moh Htin Zaw Mon, a private businesswoman
“The things I will discuss now are women and peace, which are inseparable in our society. The role of women in the peace process is very rare compared to other sectors. Women are victims of conflicts and wars which can separate their families. Here in Kayah State, we cannot fully enjoy the fruits of peace and stability until now. As you also know, there still remain many restricted areas in our state. Jobs and employment were very difficult to obtain for our ladies in Kayah State mainly due to a lack of peace and stability. Another problem is poor transportation systems in the region. Joblessness rates were very high in those days even though there were many graduates. Some people cannot afford to pursue their education because of many hardships. Currently, our state chief minister is trying his best to open classes for those who want to pursue further studies. We do need peace to improve the standard of living in our Kayah State.
All are responsible to work together in order to develop the region. The joblessness rate is very high and we need to cope with this problem urgently. We need many women like Mother Su who plays an important role to shape our country.
National reconciliation and peace is important at the union level as well as in the state/region level. Just as there are people like the State Counsellor and others in the union level, there should be similar people in our state/region. On peace and national reconciliation in regions, just as duties were assigned partially to the government and people in power, will budgets be drawn for matters related to peace? Will the budget be drawn for national reconciliation? These are my own thoughts. I expect that there are better paths and processes.
In our region, there are organizations and people who are working for national reconciliation. For example, on 16 December, Kayan National Party issued an announcement that includes national unity.
Even if the states/regions government think only a little about the importance of national reconciliation and peace, the work of national reconciliation and peace that we are doing will go a long way. It will be more strong and firm.
We say national reconciliation is important because there had been many acts that disrupted national reconciliation in the past. These acts are still ongoing. An example is the political dialogues in Shan State. National reconciliation shouldn’t be ignored. Only where there is national reconciliation can there be sustainable development. The federal democracy republic that ethnic nationals wanted will be strong and firm.
I would like to discuss that national reconciliation shouldn’t be ignored in working for peace”.
U Phara Rae Rilo, staff of Kayah State Hluttaw
I want to discuss the national reconciliation. When we see the National Reconciliation and Peace Centre headed by State Counsellor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, we can understand how the national reconciliation is important for our country.
The national reconciliation is very important in the Union level and in the region and state levels. Regarding the national reconciliation, duties should be assigned to someone who has authority in regions and states and one of my idea is whether we should draw budget for peace process or national reconciliation in regions and states.
In our state, there are several organizations which are working for the national reconciliation. If region and state governments considers the national reconciliation an important step for the country, our efforts for peace process will reach to a certain extent.
There are some attempts to derail the national reconciliation process in regions and states. That reminds us of not to reduce our efforts for the national reconciliation.
Daw Olivia, advocate for preservation of Kayaw literature and culture
“Our people mainly want peace and development. I want to discuss more literature and culture. All ethnic nationals had literature and culture. Literature and culture sound so nice but (people) don’t want to do much about it.
Literature and culture is hard work. There is no salary like public servants. It is for the love of our own people and literature that this work is being done. Although ethnic national literature is being allowed to be taught, we need the support and help of literature experts. We need teaching aids.
At the present moment it seems like the aim is to be allowed to teach only. This is my view. In some schools, ethnic literature is taught outside of normal school hours, so ethnic literature is not taken seriously. Rooms are provided to teach, but soft pens (to write on the board) were not provided. There is no funding. We seek donations from well-off people among our own people to teach the children.
Daw Olivia further discussed providing effective support for ethnic literature, both technical support and teaching, and to provide support so that teachers are qualified”.
State Counsellor responds to discussions of local youths from Kayah State
State Counsellor conducted a Peace Talk with Kayah State local youths in the State Hall of Loikaw, Kayah State yesterday morning and responded to discussions made by local youths.
Responding to a statement made by U Shahrel, a public servant who lost several relatives during the internal conflict in Kayah State and asked how a solution for the areas of the state that are still experiencing fighting could be achieved, the State Counsellor said the key is to try and understand all aspects of the disagreement.
“Each of us need to think of what justice and fairness is. We need to look at it from both sides. We are unable to achieve peace yet because of our weakness in seeing both sides. If we understand the other side, if we understand the requirements and worries they had, we can find an answer more easily,” Daw Aung San Suu Kyi said.
In response to the discussion by Daw Alice Tun, who spoke of all-round development and “positive” and “negative” peace, the State Counsellor said: “Negative peace and positive peace are actually peace and development. Peace and development cannot be separated. When there is peace, there is development. Only when there is development can the peace be maintained. Conflicts rising from lack of development have resulted in the destruction of the peace. Because if there wasn’t peace, development could not be done and there is no development. These two need to be seen and understood separately, but both could not be done separately. Both need to be done together.”
Responding to the discussion of U Mario, a farmer who asked how to overcome fear after decades of conflict, the State Counsellor said: “Fear makes people do the wrong thing. Because of fear, they do what they are told to do. Even though they know it is not right, they do it because they fear their superiors. Thus, they do the wrong thing. They did not do what they should have done. Fear puts you on the wrong path. People need to have their rights in order to remove this fear.”
The State Counsellor said that when people have basic democratic rights, fear has a tendency to shift.
“The government holds an election according to a democratic system. The government fears the people. They are afraid because people may not vote for them. People need to know that the government also fears the people. With this knowledge, do what ought to be done”, said the State Counsellor.
In her discussion on matters discussed by Daw Hnin Nu Wai, an agriculturist who spoke of the need for more loving and kindness, the State Counsellor said the quest for peace must be accomplished by the whole country as a team.
“There is no real peace because metta (loving-kindness, amity) is lacking. In places where there is much metta, it is impossible not to have peace. Researchers say hatred can be incited easily. It is easier to incite hatred than to urge people to have metta. As hatred can be easily incited, metta is lacking. It is not easy to spread metta,” the State Counsellor said.
“Our people are very keen on football. They wake up late at night to watch a football match. Since they are that keen, they all understand that for a football team to win, the team needs to work together. If a single team member wanted to be good alone, all will suffer. All need to be able to work together. Peace is the most important thing. This will have to start at home. It will have to start at school. Education needs to strive toward that. Improving or correcting it through politics when we come of age is not that easy.”
On U Soe Yar Zar Win’s discussion on Kayah’s closed schools, the State Counsellor said: “It is not because the schools are closed, but that the system was not good. Once upon a time, the education system in Myanmar was at the top in Asia. Not only in Southeast Asia. Now it is near the bottom. This is because the system was wrong. This had to be changed. But changing an education system could not be done overnight. Within the decades, students became guinea pigs. To set an education policy, about 10 years at the least should be looked toward the future”.
Efficient teaching of English should be a priority, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi said.
“A good example is the weakness in English language. We need to use English, as it is used all over the world. In order to be competitive, we need to be proficient in English. The teaching of English was weak for decades, and we no longer have capable teachers who can teach it. But there are younger generations who can do it. Not only teaching the children, but teaching the teachers and the parents too”, said the State Counsellor.
Replying to the discussion of Daw Moh Moh Htin Zaw Mon, who commented on the role of women in society, the State Counsellor said: “The number of women entering university is rising, while the percentage of men is declining. What needs to be done for men to be taught higher education? The government is putting an emphasis on livelihood education. Education is to enable people to drive themselves. If people can’t do anything with education and stay at home holding on to big books, it is useless. In order for people to drive themselves, livelihood education is important. I want to encourage youth about this.
“With regards to economy, girls and women had many opportunities in SMEs. In taking out loans for SMEs, the world experience is that women are more reliable than men. Some men take loan and get drunk. Or they buy things for themselves. On the other hand, women think out well for the family and invest in a business. According to world experience, supporting women with loans is more effective”, the State Counsellor said.
Responding to the discussion of U Phara Rae Rilo, the State Counsellor said “More time is needed for national reconciliation. Reconciliation is required not only among groups but among individuals too. Unity is required for the sake of the country.
Some think national reconciliation is something that is being done with ethnic armed organizations. No. When National League for Democracy started its policy of national reconciliation, it was reconciliation between people who trust and believe in democracy and people who didn’t trust and believe in democracy. It is reconciliation for the sake of the country.
Commenting on the discussion of Daw Olivia, who wants to preserve Kayah culture and literature, the State Counsellor said: “According to the experiences of the world, it is a struggle for small ethnic nationals to maintain their literature and culture. There’ll always be difficulties. But as there is development, more will become interested in their literature and culture and support it. If the country is developed, if the region is developed, literature and culture will also develop.”
“If the literature and culture couldn’t support your livelihood, the interest will be lacking. But once there is development, it will be valued. There will be more interest. So, don’t worry too much. The government also had the responsibility to maintain these. We will support and do the best we can. But it will be seen that once the whole country is developed and enjoy the fruit of peace, literature and culture will be maintained. There’ll be more support. We will work toward this”, said the State Counsellor.