Interview with Director of Burma Democratic Concern (BDC)
12 November, 2009 [CG Note: London-based Burma Democratic Concern (BDC), founded in 2008, has been noted for its strong campaigns and lobbying activities both inside and outside Burma to restore democracy, human rights and rule of law in Burma. Recently, BDC was publicly attacked in one of the state-owned Burmese language daily newspapers. Director of Burma Democratic Concern (BDC), Myo Thein, talks about BDC, its activities and 2010 elections in Burma.]
Chinland Guardian: First of all, tell us more about Burma Democratic Concern (BDC).
Myo Thein: We established the Burma Democratic Concern (BDC) in 2008 after Saffron Revolution in Burma. Since then, we have been doing campaigning and lobbying internationally, intensively and consistently. Since Burma Democratic Concern (BDC) is the global campaigning and lobbying organisation, we have the branches in United Kingdom, United States and Thailand. We are also planning to open new branches in the European countries. Burma Democratic Concern (BDC) is equipped with participants who had political background and in-depth knowledge of Burma issues, experiences in the past and are engaging in current activities. The main objectives of our organization are:
• to support efforts to create a political environment in Burma
• to increase awareness about political development in Burma
• to strengthen support for Burma democracy movement in international governments
Chinland Guardian: We have learned that BDC was publicly denounced by SPDC in the official newspaper The Mirror. Tell us more about what they said.
Myo Thein: Junta’s newspaper said that we are funded by US Government intending to destabilize the peace and tranquillity of Burma. It was regarding about the verdict on Aung San Suu Kyi, relating to the case involving US citizen swimmer, John William Yettaw. Additionally, they also accused the NLD inside Burma of dancing to the tune in accordance and in tandem with us by issuing statements. They also accused me of being one of the people who are orchestrating “Global Action for Burma” which is the coalition of more than 120 organisations both from inside Burma and from abroad working together collectively to see justice realities in Burma.
My impression is that junta is scared of what we are doing–campaigning effectively to restore democracy in Burma. I do not respond to it since it is just their accusations and I just focus on what I am doing. I know that I am doing the right thing and eventually justice will prevail.
Chinland Guardian: Some people say ‘campaigning outside Burma’ is not effective any more as many other organisations in exile have not proved until today that it really brings a positive change in the country. What is your view on this?
Myo Thein: I would say we have to do what we believe is right rather than complaining about others or seeing things pessimistically. Our actions reflect how we see things as well. We must believe in what we are doing since “What we believe is what we achieve”. All of us working for Burma are trying our best for the betterment of the country. Working to bring about change in Burma is not an easy task to realise. It takes a lot of toils, energy, time and sacrifices to get there. I would say due to everyone’s collective hard works, Burma is where we are seeing today as it is.
Chinland Guardian: Recently, there have been talks about changes in the way in which Burma’s SPDC has been approached. For instance, US now have a different approach and new policy on Burma. Where do you stand?
Myo Thein: I am also aware of the recent development of US new policy and SPDC new approach. Here, we have to look at what will be the best interest for the benefit of 50 million people of Burma. We cannot work with one fixed policy. We must be flexible and we must be ready to compromise. Here, I would like to highlight the importance of “Time, Frame and Angle” when we approach something, especially in politics. We will always stand on the side of the public since we are working for the people, of the people and by the people. We have to take into account everything due to globalisation.
Chinland Guardian: The military regime is determined to hold its 2010 election and it is believed that it will just go ahead, ignoring the peoples’ voices and even the 1990 election results. After all, is it not better to join them since we cannot beat them?
Myo Thein: Here I would like to stress that “something is better than nothing” is not always right! We all know that Junta held the election in 1990 in which Aung San Suu Kyi-led National League for Democracy (NLD) won a landslide victory. Junta still ignores to honour it and instead, puts Aung San Suu Kyi under house arrest. During their reign of terror, people of Burma are suffering tremendously. Junta never hesitates to use brutal force to suppress anyone who opposes their illegitimate rule.
Aung San Suu Kyi officially once said: “That the results of the 1990 General Elections must be implemented is a resolution already taken by the United Nations. We already know that the General Assembly of the United Nations has accepted the notion that the will of the people has been expressed in the 1990 General Elections. This is something we cannot abandon. It will be to the detriment of our country if after an election has been held the results are not honoured and we do not resist attempts to trivialise it.”
Aung San Suu Kyi and her party, the National League for Democracy (NLD), the unanimous victors of the 1990 election, clearly stated their position in “Shwe-Gone-Daing” declaration that need to place in order to have true national reconciliation in Burma, i.e. to
1. Release all the political prisoners
2. Review 2008 Constitution
3. Allow to reopen NLD and ethnic nationalities offices
4. Recognise 1990 election result
5. Take place political dialogue
The junta’s planned 2010 election is only a charade designed to legitimise the military dictatorship within Burma. The International Community should be aware of the hopelessly irreconcilable contents of the constitution that was adopted in 2008. The referendum was ushered into existence under questionable conditions including extortion and rigged ballots.
Giving the military junta 25% of the parliamentary seats, unbridled authoritarian control and a self serving amnesty for the crimes against humanity were truly not the will of the Burmese people. Legitimizing the criminal regime was also not the will of the people and this is incomprehensible and totally unacceptable to the Burmese people.
It should not be forgotten that in spite of promises made by the military junta in the 1990 which they sponsored they did not relinquish power when they lost the election. Now to insure they will not lose the 2010 election they have intensified the arrests of democratic proponents and concocted charges against Aung San Suu Kyi to eliminate her influence in this sham election.
U Win Tin, Aung San Suu Kyi’s right-hand man said recently: “A central issue is the results of the 1990 election [a landslide win for the NLD]. We can’t throw away the results like a piece of paper or a leaf.” He went on saying: “The NLD won the election in 1990, but to date the party hasn’t been allowed to carry out the election results. At this point, if we turn our back on the 1990 election results and talk about taking part in the new election, the NLD will be shamed”.
Our legitimate leaders are saying crystal clearly the importance of implementing 1990 election results. Whatever junta will do unilaterally, it will not yield positive outcome and will not gain public support not only in Burma but also internationally.
In my point of view, “we don’t need the election in 2010, but implementation of 1990 election results first.”
Chinland Guardian: ENC (Ethnic Nationalities Council) has been campaigning for what is called ‘Tripartite Dialogue’ for years – a dialogue between the military regime, democratic parties and ethnic nationalities. Do you think this is actually feasible and practical?
Myo Thein: I appreciate that they are doing what they can do best for Burma. If we truly work our best to realise what we believe is right, nothing is impossible.
Chinland Guardian: Some criticise the military junta as being ‘uneducated and ignorant’ while others say they [the military] are cunning and clever, at least, in securing their power and seats for more than 40 years. How do you see?
Myo Thein: We need the revolution of the spirit of junta’s leaders. They need to change their mind-set and perceptions on the way they see things especially on general public. Gen. Aung San, the Founder of today Burma’s Army, said, “Our armed forces are not for tyrannizing the people, not for flaunting their power in reliance on weapon. The armed forces are the servants of the country and not the other way round.” This is now the very critical time to reconsider all the patriotic soldiers to stand on the side of the public.
Chinland Guardian: The military regime has been apparently trying to ‘divide and rule’ the peoples of Burma, especially the ethnic nationalities. It might not be wrong to say that the junta has succeeded in implementing their propaganda and the people in some areas start to have divided rather than united. How do you think ‘pure and strong’ unity among the peoples could be gained?
Myo Thein: United we stand. When we are working for democratisation of Burma, we must learn from history what we make mistakes and how we can achieve doing things better. We must have the courage to open the new chapters. Rather than that if someone is only talking about bitter hatreds from the past, it would also create division and mistrust amongst us which would lead to “divided we fall”. We must work together if we truly want to see justice reality in Burma. In fact, we have to work together since we have no choice if we truly want to restore genuine peace in Burma. We must have confidence and trust each other. We must also be ready to compromise when we dealt with dilemma.
Our leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, always stresses how important it is to have genuine unity in our country. She said: “Unity in diversity has to be the principle of those who genuinely wish to build our country into a strong nation that allows for a variety of races, languages, beliefs and cultures to flourish in peaceful and happy coexistence. Only a government that tolerates opinions and attitudes different from its own will be able to create an environment where peoples of diverse traditions and aspirations can breathe freely in an atmosphere of mutual understanding and trust.”
We don’t have one quick fix to be a perfect union. Our hope is on our new generation. We must teach them the importance of “agree to disagree, the beauty of differences and unity in diversity”. In that way we can build our country to be a better and bolder union.
Chinland Guardian: Your messages to the peoples of Burma and to those who work hard for Burma both inside and outside the country.
Myo Thein: We have the firm determination, dedication and devotion to keep on working until the democracy is restored in Burma. I would like to stress here that we all have the responsibility to do our part in democratisation of Burma. We must all work together to achieve our destination. Please do something. Each and every small act today we are doing will be contributed for all the big achievements we will gain in the future. And every great achievement starts with the very first step we are taking. I believe that we will win and we can do it.
Chinland Guardian: Thank you for your time and answers.
Myo Thein: Thank you very much.