Remarks by Secretary of State Clinton With Aung San Suu Kyi

Rangoon, Burma–(ENEWSPF)–December 2, 2011. 

MS. KYI: Are we all settled? I’d like to say that it’s a great pleasure and a privilege for us – can you hear me —


MS. KYI: — to welcome Secretary Clinton to my country and to my home. It’s, I think, a historical moment for both our countries because we hope that from this meeting, we will be able to proceed to us renewing the ties of friendship and understanding that bound our countries together since independence. There has been times when that tie has weakened, but I don’t think it was ever really broken. And we hope that from now on, not only will the understanding and friendship between our two countries be reestablished and strengthened, but we will bring in also other members of the international community who share our commitment to human dignity, to peace, to democratic institutions, and to sustainable development.

We are so happy that Secretary Clinton had very good meetings at Nay Pyi Taw, and we are happy with the way in which the United States is engaging with us. It is through engagement that we hope to promote the process of democratization. Because of this engagement, I think our way ahead will be clearer, and we will be able to trust that the process of democratization will go forward. For this, we do need the help not just of the United States, but of other members of the international community. We need capacity-building in Burma, we need technical assistance, we are very eager that the time will come soon when the World Bank can send in an assessment team to find out what it is that our country really needs.

Before we decide what steps to take, we have to find out what our greatest needs are. And of course, two of the greatest needs of this country are rule of law and a cessation to civil war. All hostilities must cease within this country as soon as possible. That will really build up ethnic harmony and peace and a union that is prosperous and stable.

Now, when I say rule of law, I must mention that rule of law is essential to prevent more prisoner – political prisoners from appearing in Burma. First of all, we need all those who are still in prison to be released, and we need to ensure that no more are arrested in future for their beliefs. This is why we put so much emphasis on rule of law, and I am confident that the United States and our other friends will help us in our endeavors to bring rule of law to this country, and also in our endeavors to help our country to develop its educational and health facilities, which are the basic needs of all our peoples.

Whatever we do in the predominantly Burmese areas, we hope to be matched by similar programs and projects in the ethnic nationality areas, because we are a union of many peoples. And in a union of many peoples, there must be equality, there must be consideration for those who are in gracious need. And to that end, we look to our friends from all over the world to help us to meet the needs of the people of our country.

I am very confident that if we all work together – and by “we,” I mean the Government of Burma, the opposition in Burma, our friends from the United States and all over the world who are committed to the same values – if we go forward together, I am confident that there will be no turning back from the road towards democracy. We are not on that road yet, but we hope to get there as soon as possible with the help and understanding of our friends.

I was very pleased to read today that the Chinese foreign ministry said – put out a statement welcoming the engagement of the United States and Burma. This shows that we have the support of the whole world. And I’m particularly pleased because we hope to maintain good, friendly relations with China, our very close neighbor – and not just with China, but with the rest of the world.

Now I think I must give time to Secretary Clinton, who you’re all wishing to hear, because we are rather behind schedule.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I want to begin by not only thanking you for your hospitality and welcoming us all here to your home today, but for your steadfast and very clear leadership of the opposition and of many here in Burma whose voices would not otherwise be heard, including ethnic nationalities.

About the way forward, democracy is the goal. That has been the goal from the very beginning. And yet we know that it has been a long, very difficult path that has been followed. We do see openings today that, as Aung San Suu Kyi just said, give us some grounds for encouragement. My visit, both here with members of the opposition as well as representatives of civil society and the ethnic nationalities, in concert with my visit with government officials yesterday, is intended to explore the path forward.

The United States wants to be a partner with Burma. We want to work with you as you further democratization, as you release all political prisoners, as you begin the difficult but necessary process of ending the ethnic conflicts that have gone on far too long, as you hold elections that are free, fair, and credible. But we also, because of our close work with you, know that there’s much work to be done to build the capacity of the government. This is going to be an area that we will continue to consult closely with you to see what kind, as you said, technical assistance might be offered. The rule of law is essential in any democracy, and we will also look for ways we can work to further that.

But let me conclude by underscoring that you have been an inspiration, but I know you feel that you are standing for all the people of your country who deserve the same rights and freedoms of people everywhere. The people have been courageous and strong in the face of great difficulty over too many years. We want to see this country take its rightful place in the world. We want to see every child here given the chance for a good education, for the healthcare that he or she needs, for a job that will support a family, for development not only in the cities, but in the rural areas as well.

So we hold the dream that you have so long represented to many of us around the world, and we want to be a partner with you, with the new government, and with all people of goodwill who want finally to see the future that is right there waiting realized for every single citizen.

So thank you again for your gracious hospitality, but thank you even more for your leadership and your strong partnership with the United States.

MS. KYI: I would like to thank – end with a last note of thanks, a word of thanks to President Obama and to the United States of America for working so closely with us throughout, consulting us along each step of the way, and for the careful and collaborated way in which they are approaching engagement in this country. This will be the beginning of a new future for all of us, provided we can maintain it, and we hope to be able to do so.

Thank you.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you so much. (Applause.)