Myanmar gets Q and A with Suu Kyi
US-funded broadcaster Radio Free Asia has launched a weekly radio question and answer show with Myanmar democracy champion Aung San Suu Kyi, who was freed from house arrest last month.
The first episode of the Burmese-language show was broadcast on November 30, featuring six questions from listeners given a rare chance to communicate directly with the democracy icon.
“‘Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and the People’ invites RFA’s audience to submit questions on any topic, which are then answered by the recently freed Nobel Peace Prize laureate and Burmese opposition party leader,” the radio station said in a statement.
“After almost two decades under house arrest, Aung San Suu Kyi remains a beacon of hope and strength to the world,” Libby Liu, president of Radio Free Asia, said in the statement.
“But in her homeland, despite the deep admiration of her country men and women, her voice was stifled. Now, with this program, the Burmese people have a unique, public forum in which they can speak freely with their ‘Lady.’”
Listeners of the program, which is banned but still airs in Myanmar itself, send emails to RFA which then gives the questions to Suu Kyi and broadcasts the responses on Friday evenings.
“In Burma, there is no opinion or perspective expressed on official media apart from that of the ruling regime,” said Nyein Shwe, service director of RFA Burmese.
“Many Burmese people never in their lifetimes imagined they would be able to hear Aung San Suu Kyi discuss her views nor ask her their questions on the radio. For them, it’s a first.”
Suu Kyi was freed from detention on November 13, days after a rare election which has been widely panned by international observers including US President Barack Obama, who said Myanmar’s “bankrupt regime” had stolen the vote.
The Obama administration launched dialogue with Myanmar’s military rulers last year after concluding that Western attempts to isolate the regime had produced little success.
Suu Kyi, who spent 15 of the last 21 years locked up, has welcomed this engagement but warned that greater human rights and economic progress are still needed.
In the first RFA show, Suu Kyi was asked by one questioner if she still supported sanctions against the ruling junta.
“We have constantly reviewed our position with regard to sanctions and once again we are going to see if there is anything we can do to improve the situation,” she replied in an English audio version produced by RFA.
According to state media, junta leader Than Shwe hailed the “free and fair elections” and said just two of seven steps needed to be completed on his self-styled “roadmap to democracy.”
“There are many things that are not satisfactory about the present roadmap for democracy,” Suu Kyi replied to another question on the RFA show.
“We think that this should be discussed very, very thoroughly between all those who wish to really promote the process for democracy in Burma.”
Myanmar has been ruled by the military since 1962 and has refused to recognize the results of elections in 1990 that Suu Kyi’s party won by a landslide.