You spent much of your time under house arrest listening to the radio. What do you like to listen to?
Listening to political programs was a duty, a job. But cultural programs I enjoy. I listen a lot to the BBC World Service, but for some reason they don’t seem to have very many music programs these days. Maybe they came on at the times I was listening to Burmese-language BBC and Radio Free Asia. I listen at least six hours every day. There were so many shocking bits of news all the time. There seems to be so much violence and natural disasters all over the world, not just here in Burma. Floods, earthquakes, cyclones…c12/21/1012
How did you feel to hear the news of the monks’ uprising [against the Burmese junta] in 2007?
I knew from the very beginning it was not going to end well, so I was very sad. [But] it created change in the minds of lots of people, and that’s what’s really important. I think there were many people who had felt politics was not their concern [but] were so deeply shocked by how the monks were treated that they began to see you cannot ignore what is going on in the country.
You’ve been criticized for taking a stubborn stance on sanctions [against Burma’s military-dominated regime].
Some people are using economic sanctions as an excuse for the [country’s] economic mess. [But] most economists think the main problem is the policies the present regime has imposed. A change in government policies [would] bring about a change in the economic situation. And that’s what organizations like the IMF say, as well as economists.
Why have they not changed?
Because some people seem to be doing well out of it. Those who are close to the ones in power are not particularly interested in change.
How can your party avoid a leadership vacuum when the older generation moves on?
There are plenty of young people inside the country who are active, alert, and eager to learn. [They] may not know as much as their contemporaries abroad, but they are learning. We have to work at keeping some of those who are best educated from leaving the country. There is not a vacuum, just fewer than we would wish.
What obstacles face those who have chosen to stay?
So many obstacles! I don’t think I could enumerate all the obstacles. I’m just wondering whether we couldn’t find a stronger word than “obstacle.”
There are quite a few female political figures who seem to have inherited a desire to do work for their country from their fathers. Is that true for you?
I’ve always looked on my father [Burmese independence leader Aung San] as my leader as well as my father—a political leader in whom I believe, because I’ve studied his life and his work and his political thoughts.
Do you think this has been your destiny?
I don’t believe in destiny in that way. The Burmese like to talk about karma. I keep reminding people karma means “doing.” What you sow, you reap. So you create your own karma by doing; your karma is your deeds. I don’t believe in destiny as fate or kismet, like that.
You’ve maintained a sense of humor despite the hardships you’ve witnessed.
I hope so!