Transcripts of the speech by Daw Aung San Suu Kyi at a public lecture held jointly with President Tsakhiagiin Elbegdorj in Ulaanbaatar, April 30, 2013.

It’s a pleasure to be here today. Thank you for inviting me. I would like to thank the President and the Members of the Government of Mongolia, and the young people of Mongolia who arranged this lecture.

It is something I value very much, to be able to engage with peoples from different countries, especially the young people. As I have said often, young people are the hope of the human race, because of this, it is important that we know what their aspirations are, what their hopes and the fears are. In my country I have been very encouraged to find that our young people are vigorous and vibrant in their participation, in our desires, in our efforts to achieve genuine democratization.

Young people want freedom, and democracy and freedom are indivisible. But it is freedom with responsibilities. This is what I always try to emphasize. Some people think of democracy in terms of rights, and that is purely in terms of the freedoms that it will be able to enjoy without thinking of the responsibilities that they’ll have to bear. This is something that I do not encourage. All of us must understand that one of the great dignities of which human beings are capable is to assume a sense of responsibility. And I want our young people to be proud of being responsible human beings, and not to look upon duty as something onerous, or as something that only old and boring people are interested in. The more responsible young people are, the greater the hope for our nations. But responsibility is something that must come out of conviction, therefore, if we want our young people to be responsible we must be able to engender in them the conviction that there is something about which it is worthwhile for them to be responsible.
For many years, the people of my nation were deprived of the basic human rights, of basic democratic institutions. During those years Burma moved from the position of being the most progressive nation in South East Asia to the one that was left behind by every other nation in that region.
During those years our people lost their democratic rights. But more than that, worse than that they, lost their self-respect. When a people lose their self-respect, it is fatal for the future of our nation. So, when we tried to bring democracy back to Burma, we had to do it by trying to build up the self-respect of our people. Our people had to be able to understand that democracy was something they had to get for themselves, and something they would have to build up for themselves, and that they were embarking on a road that have no end. Because there is no such thing as an end to the endeavor to strengthen democratic institutions.
When people ask me why we, that is to say, my party, the National League for Democracy, are fighting for democracy. I always try to explain in very simple terms that we want our country to be a place where people are assured of both freedom and security. These have to be kept in healthy balance if democracy is to improve the lives of our people.
Freedom by itself is not enough. Neither is security by itself enough. In the name of security our people were deprived of the basic freedoms for many decades. But neither do we want in the name of freedom for our people to be deprived of the security that each and every citizen of a self-respecting nation should be entitled to. So democracy means getting into a healthy balance - freedom and security. This means responsibility. We have to understand that we are responsible not just for our freedom, but also for the freedom of others; that we are responsible not just for our security, but for the security of others. This is one of the main reasons why we chose the path of non-violence.
Violence threatens both freedom and security, ours or that of others. For that reason, we rejected violence as a means to achieving democracy. There were those who questioned this. There were many who felt that a military regime could be brought down only through violent means, because the military by definition are an armed force. There were many who believed that it is only through force of arms that we would be able to remove a military regime.
I never believed in that. I think that human beings are open to Reason. And because they are open to reason, I believe, that changes can be brought about through non-violent means.
Non-violence, the path of non-violence is usually a longer path than that of violence. But in the long run, it is a shorter path to the goals that we wish to achieve. Because violence leaves behind wounds that take many-many years to heal. And sometimes these wounds go on festering for decades to come. They leave divisions. They leave bitterness. They leave distrust. And they leave a lack of confidence in our fellow human beings. And these wounds take so long to heal that the ultimate goal towards which we are working, goes further and further away.
The path of non-violence may be longer. But at least fewer wounds. And usually the wounds left by the path of non-violence are curable, they are easily healed. So, in the long run we achieve our goals quicker by keeping to the path of non-violence, which in many ways is much harder than the path of violence. It is much harder to protect yourself against armed men without arms than it is to defend yourself against armed men when you yourselves have arms. So, in the fight for democracy, a lot we owe through non-violent means. We need the courage, the moral courage to be able to stand up to the attractions of a quick solution. What we want are sustainable and lasting solutions. Not quick solutions, which can quickly be overturned.
There are those who say that there is too much talk about democracy. What is it all about? Why is it so wonderful? And I think this is especially said by those who have enjoyed democratic rights for a long time. In the years while I was in England I noticed that many of my friends were not interested in voting at elections. This is especially so in intellectual circles, where they felt that politicians were of a lower breed than academics and scholars. And they did not think that it was worth their while to go out and vote at elections. And this was what upset me very much, because I have never voted in my life, when I was in England; because, since I grew up there had not been free and fair elections in my country. So I did not know what it was like to cast a vote for a candidate, or a party of my choice. So I would say to my friends in England “You have got to exercise your right to vote, because it is also your duty. If you do not uphold your duty, one day you may lose your rights”.
And I think, I made enough of my friends to make them go out to vote. But I found recently on my visit to Japan, that the older people make the same complaint about the younger people today that they are not interested in going out to vote. So I explained at a lecture at a Japanese university that I would like all young people to exercise their right to vote. Because that was also theirresponsibility. It was a way of defending their freedom. And I explained that now I am only 68, I have never yet voted in a free election”.
In 1990, there were free elections in my country. And I was then under house arrest. I asked to vote, because under the existing laws then I was allowed to vote even while I was in the house arrest. So they arranged for me to cast a vote. But of course it was done while I was under arrest. It was not what you would call free voting. I voted for the party I wished to support. But, I had been the candidate that my party proposed for my constituency, for the township where I lived, but I was rejected as a candidate. So my party was not able to field another candidate. It was too late. Therefore, we had to vote for another party.
So you could say that although I was able to cast a vote, I did not do it under free conditions. And I certainly was not able to cast a vote for my own party or for a candidate for whom I would have really wished to vote. I explained this to the young people in Japan to make them understand how precious the right to vote is. I have yet to be able to vote in a free and fair election.
When we had by-elections last year, the seat in my old township was not vacant, so I was elected from another township. But that was not a place for where I could cast a vote without changing my residence. So still I have not yet voted in a free and fair election. So all the young people in Mongolia, who have the right for vote,you must exercise it. (applause)
I try to explain very simply to our people, last year in 2010 we had elections. But, those elections according to the definition of the United Nations were deeply flawed. And so people’s confidence in elections was not strengthened by the elections of 2010. So one of our greatest tasks last year was to urge our people to go to the polls and to use their right to vote. And the 45 constituencies where there were vacancies.
Our message was very simple. They must decide for themselves what kind of society they wanted. They must be responsible for the future of their nation. And one way of being responsible wasto cast a vote election day. We put it very simply that on this one day, every single person with a vote was equal of the President himself because he had one vote only, and they also had one vote each. So we said to them, you must use your right to vote. Because that is the highest right of any citizen, even the President has no greater right than you. He also has just one vote.
Our campaign was very successful, because around 70 percent of those eligible to vote went to the polls. And that I think is an extremely impressive data, impressive percentage for a country which was quite unused to free and fair elections. And not only that, our people began to understand that it was a privilege to be able to cast a vote.
So the path to freedom and democracy is a path through the minds and hearts of our people. The people must be convinced intellectually that they have not only the right to participate in the democratic process, but they also have the responsibility to do so. And that freedom is freedom within the barns of duty, within the barns of acceptance of rule of law.
Rule of law is extremely important for the establishment of a democratic system. We have to understand that by rule of law we mean the rule of just laws. We do not mean the rule of laws that have been promulgated by the government to defend their interests or to ensure that they retain their grip on power.
When my party contested the by-elections last year, one of the main planks of our election platform was amendments to the Constitution. This was a Constitution that had been adopted in 2008 by a referendum. It was said that, I think, 92 percent of those who voted, voted for the Constitution. I think that this is questionable. But let us put that aside for the moment. There is no doubt that there are some flaws, more than some. And some very great flaws to the Constitution. A Constitution is crucial if the running of democratic government is to be smooth and sustainable. We have to have the right kind of Constitution, that is to say, a Constitution which people perceive to be just and which people perceive to be necessary in order to maintain a peaceful and progressive society.
A Constitution in which the people have no confidence is not a Constitution that will take us along the path to true democracy. So amendments to the Constitution are crucial, because a Constitution is a highest law of the land. And if we want rule of law, we want to make sure that the Constitution we have is not only the highest, but the best law of the land. And that it is a law acceptable to the great majority of our people.
Burma is a land of many peoples. We are made up of many ethnic nationalities and I’m proud of this. The diversity of our country is something of which all our people should be proud. Unfortunately, we have not got you to the point, when we see our differences as strength. There are many who still think that whatever is different from us threatens our position.
This is not so; the greater differences there are, the more opportunity for us to learn to live together in harmony and in peace, in spite of our differences.
We have been working for national reconciliation since 1988. When we started out on the path to democracy we started out aiming for national reconciliation. We want democracy that is accepted by all our peoples, by all the political forces within our country. Not just by one. This is why we thought, and accepted and practiced the need for national reconciliation. After many years under military rule they are those who feel hostile towards military, but this is something must be changed.
The Burmese army was built to bring independence to our nation. And when my father founded the Burmese army in the 1940s, it wasmuch loved by our people. Our people looked upon our soldiers as our defenders, as our protectors. And at the same time as our sons, as our fathers, our family. We have to restore that kind of attitude among our civilian population.
The relationship between the military and the civilian part of our country must once again be that which was the pride of our nation so long ago. True national reconciliation must come from the heart. This is why I said that our path to freedom and democracy must be through the hearts and minds of people. We can’t force people to believe. We can force them to pretend to believe. Our true belief will not come out of force. It has to come out of conviction. And convincing somebody takes much longer time than forcing somebody to do something. So convincing the great majority of a country to accept certain values is much more difficult than forcing them to accept certain values.
The people of Mongolia who have lived under authoritarian rule will understand this much better than those who have never known what it is like to live under an authoritarian government. You will know what a struggle there is to reconcileyour inner beliefs to what you are forced to practice in public.
We do not want our people to be torn apart by the necessity to pretend what they are not. That is what democracy is about. That people should be entitled to express their beliefs openly, always remembering that they should not do it in a way that will be harmful for others;that the rights of others are as sacred and as important as their own rights.
Those who think only of their own rights, and not the rights of others do not understand what democracy is about. Democracy is about reconciling differences. It is about accepting that others with different views maybe just as correct as you are in espousing those views; it is to learn to respect others as you want others to respect yourself.
In the end, democracy is as simple as it is difficult. It is based on respect for human dignity, your own as well as that of others. This is why human rights is indivisible from democracy. This is why we talk about the struggle for democracy and human rights, for human rights and democracy, for freedom and democracy, for democracy and freedom. Democracy is one of the most difficult systems to maintain. We have to be committed. We have to be prepared not just to fight for it but to live it. It is sometimes easier to fight for a system than to live it.And some of the most difficult paths of a transition to democracy is to understand when it is time to stop revolutionary tactics and to use more mature political ways of achieving your ends.
A very important aspect of democracy is acceptance of opposition. A healthy opposition ensures a healthy democracy. I represent the opposition in my country. It is a healthy opposition. Our party, I believe, enjoys a large scale support among the public. I would go so far as to say that my party enjoys more support from the people that any other party. (applause) But, in a legislature we are only 45 and there are over 600 members of the legislature. So you might question what is the use of 45 opposition members in a legislature of over 600. I have to say that all those 600 do not belong to the ruling party. There are many from ethnic nationality parties. But, we are still the largest party in Parliament apart from the Union Solidarity and Development Party, which is the ruling party.
So with 45, we are the largest party in Parliament. We can claim to be the largest opposition. In spite of the fact that our numbers are very small, we are an effective opposition because the legislature works together. The speakers of both houses have been even handed and more than fair towards our party and because of that we have been able to achieve progress within the legislature.
This means that in many ways we have been able to prove that reconciliation is possible and that cooperation goes a longer way towards achieving democracy than hostility or determination to work against thosewho have worked against you in the past. We have to use the past as a lesson for the future, not as shackles. If we are shackled by the past through bitterness and through an inability to forget what has been done for us or at least inability to forgive what we have undergone, then we are letting ourselves be bound to the past. That is not what we want. The past for us should be a lesson and what we should not do in the future. The mistakes that we should not commit again, as a nation, as people and as a party. If we go forward, in that way, using the past as a stepping stone towards a better future, then we will be able to achieve both freedom and democracy in a way of which we need never be ashamed in the future and of which future generations need not be ashamed.
The way in which we achieve victory is just as important as a victory itself. I have had to say very often to our young people that it is better to fail in the right way than to succeed in the wrong way. (applause) Because, success that comes through bad means, the success that comes through shameful means is not a real success. It is the greatest moral failure of which any human being could be capable.
But if we fail and we manage to overcome our failure and to learn from it and to become better human beings, better organizations, a better nation, then that failure is not a failure, it is simply a stepping stone to success in the future.
So democracy is a process of learning. I say very often to our young people “I don’t make a distinction between the good and the bad, or the intelligent and the stupid. I simply make distinction between those who are capable of learning and those who are incapable of learning”. And by “Iearning” I mean learning from life as well as from scholarly books or from your classroom. If we wish to achieve democracy and if we wish to make what we have achieved sustainable, we have to be learners. We have to be prepared to go on learning all of our life. It is not enough to say we have achieved democracy. We must make sure that democratic values take root within our society that democratic institutions are strong and thriving. And this is a task, a responsibility that we must hand down from generations to generation.
And unless we are capable of making our young people learners, of making our nation, our nations a nation of learners, we will not be able to sustain the democratic advances that we have achieved.
Burma is on the verge of making a breakthrough to democratization. Let me emphasize that we have not yet made that breakthrough. We are just on the verge. And we are at a point when there are so many opportunities that are open to us, that is a moment of great danger as well as of great hope. If we misuse our opportunities now, it maybe many many years again before we get such an opportunity. So it is a time for our country to be aware of the challenges that lie ahead of us. And as we face challenges, we look to our friends all over the world, to our friends in Mongolia, from where we spring. I had an interesting discussion with the President a couple of days ago. And I explained to him, that we Burmese also have the Mongolian blue spot. So there is no doubt about the fact that we are related. I looked to our friends all over the world and particularly to our relatives in Mongolia to help us to face the challenges that will bring freedom and deeply rooteddemocracy to my nation in the very near future.
Thank you.