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CDB president's speech at May 2001 commemorative dinner

Good evening distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen,

I am deeply honored to stand here tonight and welcome you all to this very important event.  The May 1990 General Elections in Burma must be the most talked about political event in the past decade.  It attracts the attention of individuals, organizations and governments around the globe mainly because victory was turned into defeat by a power-mad junta. 

 The victorious political party, the NLD, became victims and the people were denied the government of their choice. 

  Their votes were rendered useless. 

 Their desire to transform Burma into a democracy was ruthlessly suppressed. 

 Although the elections could be said to be free and fair, the military rulers have ignored the results, flouted the will of the people and right up to this day will not give in.

 Very recently Lt Gen Khin Nyunt made a public statement to the effect that state power would not be transferred until the country's economy was strong.  This has prompted much speculation about their true intentions in their secret talks, which started in October last with Daw Aung San Suu Kyi.

I will not elaborate on these "talks" because fortunately, present with us tonight are Ms. Debbie Stothard, the Coordinator of Alternative ASEAN, and Dr. Myint Cho, the special assistant to the President of the member of the parliamentary union, who have kindly consented to speak to us on the work they have been doing in Thailand and the current situation regarding these secret talks.

Unfortunately, the president of MPU, Mr. Teddy Buri, had to leave the country to answer the call of duty and cannot be here with us tonight.

The problems confronting Burma are many.

        Conflicts with ethnic minority groups,

        sky rocketing inflation,

        economic mismanagement by greedy, self serving ignoramuses,

        corruption and moral degradation in the civil service,

        deficient public health system which is deteriorating rapidly,

        an education system that has lost a generation.

These are just a few, which has made Burma a least developed pariah country.  The ruling military junta has brought all this about.  How can they ever solve the problems that the country faces today?

They do not have the political will or the moral courage to stop human rights abuses perpetrated by the regional commanders and their cronies.  Forced labor will always be used essentially for their military operations.  We hope they will come to their senses and realize the need to negotiate without intimidation. Forty years of military rule has resulted in a culture of fear and mistrust. It is important that through these "talks" confidence can be built to set the country on the road to reconciliation, peace and stability. The country's future depends on it.

We are grateful to the United States of America and the European Union for deciding to keep up the pressure on the military regime until such time the "talks" produce tangible results.  As for countries that have gone soft, we ask you to honestly assess the situation and act in such a way as to help the people and not the rulers.  By this I especially mean the governments of Australia and Japan. Our request to the Australian government is that it put on hold human rights seminars which give some form of legitimacy to the SPDC and Japan should rethink how its resumption of aid will prolong the life of the junta. Please help Burma to move forward, not backward at this time when it is at the cross-road.

I remind the audience here of the prophetic words by Daw Aung San Suu Kyi at one o'clock in the afternoon of the 11th of July 1995 when she received official intimation of the end of her house arrest.

These are her very words.

"I have always believed that the future stability and happiness of our nation depends entirely on the readiness of all parties to work for reconciliation.  Dialogue has been undoubtedly the key to a happy resolution of long-festering problems.  Once bitter enemies in South Africa are now working together for the betterment of their peoples.  Why can't we look forward to a similar process?  We have to choose between dialogue or utter devastation."

Human instinct of survival alone, if nothing else, will eventually lead all of us to prefer dialogue.

If we want the people of Burma to survive, and if we want to avoid utter devastation for Burma, all of us must do what we can, in whatever capacity, to see this dialogue process continue.  The least we can do is not to go against the wishes of Daw Su and her party.

I welcome our guests who have supported us faithfully in making this event a success.  I thank the important people who have consented to speak to us tonight.  I thank those who have sent their apologies.  I thank them for their messages expressing their solidarity with us. I thank the faithful members of our organization who have supported me in my task as their president. 

Thank you all for listening.