Aung Sun Suu Kyi's Burmese speech

 A translation of Aung Sun Suu Kyi by Soe Moe

As I had to try to explain DASSK's Burmese speech to my immediate family members who could not understand the language completely, this is my humble translation of her speech in English that she gave to the 5000 plus crowd of Burmese in Singapore at Resorts World Singapore on 22/09/2013 and that I have translated to the best of my ability. I just felt that any other English language speakers could also benefit from her words of wisdom.

My sincerest apologies for any mistakes in usage of the language as I myself am no expert in this:)

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Thank you all for giving me such a warm welcome. Firstly, I would like to say a few words to the Burmese who are living in Singapore but were not able to join us here today. The day I arrived in Singapore, I actually saw some Burmese nationals waiting outside Changi Airport. But due to the scheduling, I was not able to stop the car to greet them, although I did wave at them from inside the car. I do not know whether they saw me or not. I do thank them all for coming to greet me though. 

On my way here as well, before arriving to Sentosa, I saw some Burmese men greeting me along the road. I did wave to them from the car though I felt bad I could not actually stop the car to greet them. But they also looked like they were going to work as they had their uniforms on, so as I could not stop to greet them earlier, I would just like to say hello to them from here and would like to ask that you please send my regards if you do see them on your way home today.

Since last year, ever since I was able to travel overseas, I have traveled to quite a number of countries. In every country I visit, whenever possible, I always make an effort to meet up with the Burmese men, women and children living in these countries. The reason I meet them is, well, there are basically two or three reasons actually. The first one is that I just wanted to meet with the Burmese people who are there. Some are not even Burmese citizens anymore. That's why for me instead of referring to them as Burmese citizens, I would like to call them all people who are originally from Burma.

No matter how it is phrased anyway, we are all originally from Burma. We were all born in Burma. There can never be a total disconnection between us all. That's why wherever I go,
I would like to meet them. I would like to know how they are doing. I would like to see that anyone who has left our country to live overseas is successful and when they are successful , we are very happy for them. Another thing I would like to know is how they feel about Burma, what their hopes and dreams are for the future of Burma, if any. This has nothing to do with them returning or not to Burma. Some people settle overseas and have family living overseas and have actually decided to live the rest of their lives overseas. This still doesn't change the fact that we all come from the same country and birthplace and so this connection and closeness we have with one another, I believe, will always exist, together with the goodwill we have towards one another. That's why , I am always interested in what advice can we all give one another, how can we help each other, for the future improvement of our home country . Even if you can't help us practically , if you can offer us out of goodwill some assistance in terms of advice, it would also mean a lot to us.

Before I came here, I actually had a discussion with some students who had come from Burma in another room. The discussion was about what I always discuss whenever I go overseas, especially with the younger generation. The reason for this is that for the older generation, they already are quite permanently settled in their jobs and lives overseas, whereas the younger generations have still not decided on what they want to do , where they want to go, how they feel about Burma, do they have any plans to return or not, there are a lot of things to think about. Now, I do think that every Burmese truly wishes for the improvement of our country. The reason for this is that even if you do decide not to live in your birth country and choose to live overseas, the status of your birth country still affects your life . I'm sure all those who have left Burma surely know that depending on where you come from, which country you come from, people from other outside countries will see you and value you in a different light. So if you do come from Burma, we'd like people to respect you and value you and acknowledge that you come from a respectable nationality. When I was young this was also true. You can actually say that I grew up in fortunate times. Those were the times just after we gained independence. I was 3 years old when that happened and so my generation grew up during the years after independence. So first of all, we all had lots of confidence when we were young. We were confident in the belief that we were a people who were capable of gaining our own independence. Moreover, in those days, our country was a very highly respected and highly developed country in Asia. So this gave us confidence. The education system was also very good. Because of this, our young countrymen who went overseas for either postgrad or undergrad studies, were very confident that they were on par with the rest of the western world. They really were on par as well. This is because our basic education was so good that whichever country we went to and whomever we met, we were equals. As confident as we were with our capabilities, the rest of the world was also equally confident that we were Burmese and respected us for that, they respected our skills and abilities and valued us as a people. Nowadays , during my travels, I have heard from those working and living abroad, people actually look down on Burmese in these countries. When I hear this I feel very sad. But this is not something that can't be fixed. Everything on this earth is always changing. Values are also always changing. If you want people to value you, you must also work on it. You cannot always be blaming your country. Instead of thinking that because our country has no status, we also have so status, one should install the mindset that we will work on raising the status of our country. Now we actually have the chance to do such a thing. Though not complete, we are at the beginning of such things. We each have to decide as individuals how much we are willing to sacrifice for our country. This kind of thing cannot be forced upon. You cannot force goodwill and loving kindness from people. One has to cultivate it from within oneself. Ofcourse one can pretend these things. But people can tell whether something is fake or genuinely from the heart. Everyone actually owns their own mind. No one can tell you that your mind must be like this or like that. But one has to decide ones own values and priorities. So I mentioned this topic to the youngsters I met earlier. You must decide yourself. What is life about? What is your life all about? Why am I here in this universe is a question we must all answer ourselves. Others cannot tell us what to do or do it for us either. We must make our own decision. So in the end, the question of are we all here in this universe to just take, to just give, or to have a balance of give and take is something we have to decide upon. As we all are humans , to just be on the giving side is quite impossible and only a very small percentage of people can do that. Having a balance of give and take is also a good thing. One can equally give as well as take. It is normal human nature to want something in life and this is acceptable. So we cannot ask someone to just keep on giving. But there must be some kind of balance. If one always wants more than others it is not good for oneself or for ones community I think. I would like everyone to at least have the pride that you will give as much as you take. This is considered to be the act of a valuable human being. You must be willing to at least give back as much as you take. If you are willing to give even a bit more than you take, I would like to say that you will be an even more valuable human being. 

Right now, the world is changing very quickly. Nowadays when I travel abroad, I look at all these developed and wealthy nations. And I try to examine how I feel in my mind about these places. Do I envy and crave for these countries with all their material wealth? Do I feel like I want to live in these places in my mind? I try to analyze my own mind and my own thoughts. Especially when I was in Hawaii I thought very seriously about this . The reason for this is that Hawaii is very beautiful. Geographically it is very beautiful. The culture there is also very pleasant. Of all the countries I've been to, well I guess this isn't really a country, it is a part of America, but still amongst all the places I've been to, the fact that there is no racial discrimination , the empathy , love and friendliness they show one another, all these things are quite abundant in Hawaii. Locationwise, it is very beautiful and the people there are also very wealthy. Now, Singapore is again in Asia, a wealthy, developed and very clean country as well. But while I was in Hawaii I thought to myself, while I was sitting on the shore and staring at the pacific ocean, would I like to live in this place, would I be happy to live in this place and to tell you the truth I would not be happy there. The reason is because I feel that in my own country Burma, even if I have to work and struggle together with the people, or if we have to be poor together, I feel I would still be more satisfied instead.

Being satisfied doesn't mean I am satisfied to be poor. No one needs to be satisfied about being poor. But the thought that we can work together to dig ourselves out of this poverty and that we 'will' work together , 'can' and 'want' to work together, because of this mindset for me, I don't want to live in a more suitable, wealthier and easier place. However, me saying this doesn't mean that all the Burmese living and working abroad must come back. This is neither practical nor is it necessary. But I would like you to help as much as you can. Especially for the younger generation I would like you to think carefully. How do you want to use your life? The way I see it, not only from Burma but also from other Asian countries that are not as developed as Singapore, there are many young people who want to come to Singapore. They want to improve their lives here. When I asked the students I met earlier, what do you like the best here, they said that they love the fact that you can choose. There is a life guarantee. There are plenty of choices. I quite like the fact that there are lots of choices. What does it mean when one wants democracy? In the end it is the choice. You not only have choice of your own government but you also have choice to legally, within legal boundaries, choose your path in life and this abundance of choice is a benefit of a democratic society. That's why choice is very necessary. So, you must also choose. Choice is not just given to the political system and the government. You must also use your choice wisely. In the end, every person must decide the path they want to walk in life. There will be some who were helped by others or nudged forward by others. But this also in the end depends on you. Will you follow the path someone forced you to follow or will you choose your own path. This is something each person must decide themselves.

Another thing is life guarantee. When the students mentioned this I also understood. Ofcourse it is great for everyone to have a basic life guarantee. But sometimes instead of 'wanting' a life guarantee, I feel that it is more important that we 'create the circumstances' so that you may 'have' a life guarantee. This is the aim of the organisations that have been working towards democracy in our country for the past 20-30 years now. We want to give our people basic life guarantees. What is a basic life guarantee? It is to be able to live peacefully and safely under a fair and just legal system. And as mentioned earlier, to be able to have the right of choice in ones life. This guarantee for the right to choose is supposed to be given and guaranteed by the political system and the government. But for this to happen we all need to work together. A single political party cannot achieve this. A single person would be even farther from doing so. So everyone needs to work together. Every person must do as much as they can. So some people ask me, how much do your people help out ? A lot of times we get help without expecting it. For example last year when we went campaigning to the villages, and even before then, when we had to meet the villagers for some committee matters, the support that was given to us, even if they can't do anything else, the fact that they are supporting us, that they stand behind us, that they are there 'for' us, just this mindset alone is a huge support for us. Therefore, there is no such thing as a person who cannot do anything, one can always do something. The ones who can do more will have to do more. I would like you to use what you can offer for the benefit of others. I am not ordering you by force to do this. You have to want to do this. Even here, I heard that there are many Burmese doctors and nurses. So in the same manner that you treat a patient, when you treat a patient its not enough just to have the medicine. You must also have the goodwill and the compassion. All of you, anyone who has had medical treatment before will know . No matter how qualified a doctor is, without empathy, without compassion for the patient, the treatment doesn't feel the same for the patient. Likewise, if you are doing something for your country, it is not enough to just be qualified. You must have good intentions and loving kindness. You must have goodwill towards the progress of your country. You must have empathy and loving kindness towards your countrymen. If you don't have these qualities you will not be able to help your country progress. 

Our country is now quite poor. You will not be mistaken if you consider it as one of the poorest countries in the region. Although it was once a shining star, as with the principle of impermanence, it is not shining anymore. But, as a fact of impermanence, this also can change. So for this to happen we have to make it happen. We cannot just be sitting and wishing hopefully for this to happen. I recently visited Czechoslovakia. Amongst the many speakers , The Dalai Lama was also one of the speakers there. As he is the Dalai Lama, he practises regular worshipping, daily prayers and chanting but do you know what he said ? He said , " It is good to say prayers, it is good to worship, but you also need to work". So I just want to say the same thing. We all must work to progress and improve our country. When we do this, we must know the difference. In the end it is just our priorities. What do we value? Every one of us has greed, anger, and ignorance. So put simply, greed is to want. But you know in life you cannot get everything you want. There are some things you have to sacrifice. You have to decide what you will sacrifice. What do you value the most in life? What can you not afford to lose? You must then decide because you cannot want everything. So if we really want to help our country, we may have to give up some personal things, maybe even partially, that we want. If necessary we must let go completely. But you must sacrifice willingly. And you must also not be boasting about your sacrifice. This must be genuine. You know, I am very weary of people who say they have sacrificed and given so much . In my mind, I feel these people will one day come to collect their debt. I worry they will claim then that since we've done this for you and gave this up for you we want this and this back . That's why when people say that I have sacrificed , I feel very embarrassed. I feel strange. I don't think I personally made any sacrifice. I think I made a choice to do what I wanted to do. I did what I chose. I am satisfied that I was able to do what I did. This doesn't mean I am happy with my choice. It also comes with lots of suffering. But this suffering is from my own choice so I must face it myself. Right? This is also an issue of choice . You must be able to face your own suffering that you choose. So we all need to use this right to choose properly. Please choose. How much will you give? How much will you take? What will you give? What will you take? What do you want to do for your country? 

Now, although our country is poor, it also has things that other countries do not have, valuable things that other countries do not have. I don't want you to forget these things either. When I spoke with the students also, things like warmth of the family, warmth towards each other, I always say, our people, whenever we go campaigning, they warmly greet you and they warmly pray for you and your health, 'May you be healthy, May you live long, May you have a long life' etc. This is all that they can give, but I am satisfied with this. Because this is a genuine wish from their heart I feel very satisfied. So for those who have nothing, instead of asking them of this and that, if they merely say "May you live a long life'', then I am quite happy to think I can serve them longer if I live longer, and so I like it very much and I thank them for this wish.

So for the Burmese who are here in this country whether citizen or not, I consider you all as Burmese people, the citizenship of whatever country is another separate issue. I consider you the same, as you were born in the same country. So for all the Burmese people living in this country, I wish you all to do well and to succeed, to be wealthy and to gain skills that you did not have before. When you do get all this also, I wish you to proudly use your skills and your wealth. So please think carefully as to what 'you' will be proud of. This is something I would like to remind you of. Are you going to be proud of rank, status, wealth? Or will you be proud that you can use your skills and your wealth for the good of humanity? Please think carefully about this. I always say, wealth, especially physical wealth is just temporary. We even learnt when we were young that 'things' are like magic. they are here today gone tomorrow. They can be gone . So instead of that, the thought that you did the right thing can never be lost. We also learnt since young that 'Education is like a pot of gold whereas things are like magic' . Sometimes, even skills can be not used adequately. But the knowledge that one has done the right thing, one has honestly done the best to help others and the satisfaction you gain from this can never be taken by anyone. I'm sure there is not anyone amongst us who has not made a mistake. If I am wrong I apologise but I don't think there are any arahats in this room now. Just thinking. As for me it's a long way to go. So until we are arahats, we will always make mistakes. But this is also not something we should feel bad about. This is something we have to overcome. We just have to live a meaningful life for ourselves and our community. 

So my wish to all our people is "Please live meaningfully". Even if you can't come back to our country and you can't do anything for our country, at least live your lives so that people will respect our country and if you can assist our country in any way, please try to assist in whatever capacity you can. And if for various reasons you cannot assist our country, don't be too bothered about it. Wherever you are, in whatever your community, if you can help to make it better, this is also helping our country in a way. But for the youngsters, I really would like them to help in nation building . Earlier, when I spoke with the students, I asked them "Do you have any intention to come back to Burma?, Would you like to work there?" and so some of them answered that if the circumstances allowed, they would come back. So what I want to request is please come back to 'create' the circumstances that you want, please don't wait for the circumstances to arise. You must do it on your own. Don't wait for others to do it for you. This is not me blaming you. I'm just asking you to think about it. It makes sense to say that if things change for the better you will go back, you will go work. This does make logical sense but if one can think that he or she will go back to change the circumstances to what they need them to be, I think this will be much more useful for our country. I would like you to consider this option.

I don't want our country to be the 'same' as other countries. Yes, I want to give basic life guarantees and our country must be richer. Our people are poor. But I want to maintain the good values that our people still have in our country. Please do not forget this. Our world does not need to be the same . You may say I am quite ambitious. When we say our country is not the same as others, I hope this means not the same in the good qualities and not not the same in the bad qualities. That is why I would like to request that everyone tries their utmost best and on our part we will also try our best to create the circumstances that all our people and all Burmese people around the world are hoping for. Thank you!

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