SA democracy gets nod from Suu Kyi

2012-10-03 09:05

Los Angeles - Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi wrapped up a landmark two-week US trip praising South Africa and eastern Europe's democratic transitions - but saying Myanmar must find its own path.

The opposition icon, who flies home on Wednesday, said Myanmar has to develop its own form of democracy - one that would probably not be like that of the United States, where a presidential election is only weeks away.

"It can't be like America's democracy because Burma is not America," she told several thousands supporters gathered on Tuesday in Los Angeles for her last public appearance before she left for home.

"Each country develops its own type of democracy, not something that should be imposed from above. I've always been against so-called disciplined democracy, which has been advocated by the military regime."

Suu Kyi, who spent 15 years under house arrest until her 2010 release, arrived in the US on 17 September for the visit, which included a meeting with President Barack Obama in the White House.

The 67-year-old, who won the 1991 Nobel Peace Prize - although she only accepted it in person in June of this year - also met in Washington with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who visited Myanmar in December.

'Let's be practical'

After meetings in Washington and New York, Suu Kyi travelled to Kentucky and Indiana and visited Yale and Harvard universities, before a public event in San Francisco at the weekend.

In translated excerpts of a BBC interview that aired on Saturday, Myanmar President Thein Sein said he would accept Suu Kyi as president if elected, although he added he could not alone amend rules that bar her from power, including one prohibiting high office for those with close foreign relatives.

Suu Kyi was asked in Los Angeles - where she appeared relaxed and energetic, joking and speaking mostly in Burmese during a 90-minute question-and-answer session - what she would do if she were Burma's president.

She dismissed the question by saying: "You should consider how the present president of Burma is handling the situation, rather than asking me how I would handle it if I were the president of Burma.... Let's be practical."

Asked what democratic models Myanmar could look to, she said: "We have many, many lessons to learn from various places, not just the Asian countries like South Korea, Taiwan, Mongolia and Indonesia."

She also cited "the eastern European countries, which made the transition from communist autocracy to democracy in the 1980s and 1990s, and the Latin American countries, which made the transition from military governments.

Need for compromise

"And we cannot of course forget South Africa, because although it wasn't a military regime, it was certainly an authoritarian regime."

She added: "We wish to learn from everybody who has achieved a transition to democracy, and also ... our great strong point is that, because we are so far behind everybody else, we can also learn which mistakes we should avoid."

In a nod to the current deep US political divide between Republicans led by Mitt Romney and the Democrats of Obama - battling to win re-election on 6 November - she stressed the need for compromise.

"Those of you who are familiar with American politics I'm sure understand the need for negotiated compromise," she said with a smile.

Supporters gave her a rousing reception when she arrived at the LA Convention Centre for Tuesday's event, where security was tight - a small group of Muslims protested outside against "genocide" in Myanmar.

"She is very inspirational for us, we admire her," said Corina Yang, aged 36, who is half Chinese and said it was the first time she had seen Suu Kyi.

Asked if she would make a good president, Yang said: "She's a very straightforward person, and I really like her personality. She is a very honest person, so I really wish her one day to become president in our country."

  • cyanideandhappiness - 2012-10-03 09:16

    She just exposed herself as an idiot, because the democratic transition in this country has been terrible, disgusting, as it has in most of the world, bloody left-right paradigm... DA or ANC, Republican or Democrat, Coke or Pepsi, Gay or Straight, Religious or Atheist, Idiot or Smart...

      derek.gunter.946 - 2012-10-03 10:03

      It's more like a transition into Communism... Democracy is just a word they like to use, kinda like toilet paper for the poop they cause.

      fidel.mgoqi - 2012-10-03 10:07

      The people who run and apologise for this pseudo-democracy, whose main achievements are inequality and corporate propaganda, despise real democracy.

  • Desilusionada - 2012-10-03 09:36

    15 years house arrest, never been to SA, makes her an expert on the SA democracy?

  • julius.hond - 2012-10-03 09:41

    is she for real? what a stupid comment to make about this country! its a bloody failure ma'am!

      fidel.mgoqi - 2012-10-03 10:04

      Democracy cannot be evaluated without considering historical factors and events.

  • fidel.mgoqi - 2012-10-03 10:00

    Nothing is good for everyone. As a negotiated human construction, democracy is no panacea. It is a system made within the context of history and the diversity of human identities. It is not one institutional form, or a single set of processes. There are, have been, and can be as many forms of democracy as people need to deliver the reality of human dignity and well-being to all. The most undemocratic thing is to assume you have the complete answer and insist everyone else does democracy your way. This neo-con conceit is inherently totalitarian.

      Desilusionada - 2012-10-03 12:19

      There are, have been, and can be as many forms of democracy as people need to deliver the reality of human dignity and well-being to all. Exactly the point. No democracy in SA, until dignity and well being delivered. And certainly not by the current government. So how can she commend SA? or "The most undemocratic thing is to assume you have the complete answer and insist everyone else does democracy your way. This neo-con conceit is inherently totalitarian." Do we now accept that the country is delivering dignity and well being, except that the nearly 2/3 rds voted for government has the complete answer and everyone else do their way, is not doing so? And the Info bill laws et al is not the beginning of totalitarianism. Perhaps pontification should take a back seat and plain good old fashioned values; such as the fact that government appointees are servants of the people and thus should serve, instead of snuffling at the gravy trough; come to the fore. And her great speech only resulted in some getting an undeserved warm feeling you-know-where, while there will still be 43 people murdered today. And people are still having to cr@p in unclosed toilets..........

  • lerato.kay.3 - 2012-10-03 10:12

    If this country is such a failure as you claim why are you still here. Talking about democracy, SA is one of the most liberal countries in the world, allowing gay marriages way before many European countries and mind you some states in the US it’s still outlawed. Can you imagine groups like AWB are still allowed to roam free in our streets, the president can be disrespected called names even exhibit his manhood and you tell me there is no democracy. We have  largest economy in Africa, and the 28th-largest in the world a fit which only a democratic country can achieve look at Nigeria and Angola with all their wealth where are they? The executive, legislature and judiciary are all subject to the supremacy of the Constitution, and the superior courts have the power to strike down executive actions and acts of Parliament if they are unconstitutional, isn’t that democracy? Anyway this is a globalised world and if you think SA is a rubbish dump move elsewhere, we don’t need the negative bunch here. PS, apartheid is gone, dead and buried, it’s not coming back so forget it!

      richard.bosmano - 2012-10-03 10:59

      Pity the anc government is outright corrupt and inept and downright criminal though lerato. RSA had/has the largest economy in africa for one good reason ,the previous government wasn't the anc.

      msendi - 2012-10-03 11:30

      I always feel sorry for cry babies who are still expecting a bigger chunk at the expense of others. The world respect this country while they are crying for the past that is gone forever…

      beryl.knipe - 2012-10-03 15:30

      By listing "gay marriages" as your introduction doesn't hold much water - sorry! Don't EVER forget WHY South Africa has the largest economy in Africa - don't forget it!

  • crystal.core.5 - 2012-10-03 10:15

    I'm not sure Suu Kyi has done all her homework on the oppressive, racist and unsustainable ANC regime in South Africa. Here are a few keywords she might want to google in context to South African democracy ANC style: BEE score cards, ANC corruption, Zuma's 800+ charges of fraud, top ANC NEC members implicated in fraud, anti-white racial hate crimes, murder, corruption in the police force, ANC cadre deployment, land "reformation" policies of the ANC, kill the boer, bring me my machine gun, Zuma's various definitions of "democracy", Arms deal, travelgate, scorpions, NPA, genocide of white South Africans...

      chris.nel.35 - 2012-10-03 13:30

      Good one Walter.HaHa.

  • allcoveredinNinjas - 2012-10-03 10:29

    Considering her position i think from what she has experienced, she has a far better perspective on what democracy isn't than most who live in democracies who claim to know what it is and how their countries aren't . Perhaps a level of respect for Su Kyi's opinions on the topic , one which she is internationally revered for is in order seeing as she is talking about our democratic institution and consititution , not our current regime .

  • jacqui.daanevanrensburg - 2012-10-03 10:42

    Well she is right, each country developes it's own democracy. As for South Africa, here the fundamendals of democracy are not even understood,and it never will be while party politics rule.

  • David - 2012-10-03 16:03

    Is she effing nuts?? Pisses me off when people who know nothing about the plight of the average person in SA, has the gumtion to speak on our behalf. What an idiot.

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