Technology revolution is key to fight for democracy, says Aung San Suu Kyi

The Nobel peace laureate and human rights campaigner Aung San Suu Kyi spoke yesterday in a BBC lecture of the vital role played by communications technology in modern democratic uprisings and said she was not morally opposed to the use of violence in exceptional circumstances.

The Burmese opposition leader and general secretary of the National League for Democracy (NLD) has recorded two speeches for the annual BBC Reith Lectures, which were smuggled out of Burma last week.

In the first, which will be broadcast on Radio 4 next Tuesday, Ms Suu Kyi compared the 23-year struggle to win democracy in Burma to the fast-moving revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt and said that the widespread availability of internet-based technology in the Arab world had been a crucial factor in the success of those movements.

The lecture was broadcast yesterday to an invited audience at Broadcasting House in London. Afterwards, speaking from a secret location in Rangoon, Ms Suu Kyi told presenter Sue Lawley that, just as Nelson Mandela had altered his position on political protest, "it's possible" she might change her longstanding commitment to non-violence.

"I have said in the lectures I do not hold to non-violence for moral reasons but practical and political reasons," she said. She said Mahatma Gandhi, the "father of non-violence", had "said that between cowardice and violence he would choose violence any time".

Ms Suu Kyi, who was 66 last Sunday, the first birthday she has celebrated as a free woman in nearly a decade following her release from house arrest last November, said the Burmese people wished to emulate the success of Arab democratic movements.

"The similarities between Tunisia and Burma are the similarities that bind people all over the world who yearn for freedom," she said. But two key differences had ensured that "the outcomes of the two revolutions have been so different", she added.

"The first dissimilarity is that while the Tunisian army did not fire on their people, the Burmese army did. The second, and in the long run probably the more important one, was that the Tunisian revolution enjoyed the benefits of the communications revolution and this not only enabled them to better organise and co-ordinate their movements, it kept the attention of the whole world firmly focused on them. Not just every single death but every single [person] wounded can be made known to the world within minutes."

Speaking from a simple room decorated with a single vase of flowers and wearing an orange-coloured blouse, she said that "in Libya, in Syria and in Yemen now, the revolutionaries keep the world informed of the atrocities of those in power" and that "communications means contact".

During the Q&A, she said the Burmese uprising of 1988 might have been successful if the world had seen what was happening. "The communications revolution made a lot of difference [in Tunisia]," she said, noting that although the Burma uprising was "much worse" in terms of violent repression, it had gone unreported.

"The shooting and the lack of images throughout the whole world had a lot to do with the way which our revolution has been going on for such a long time," Ms Suu Kyi said.

In Tunisia and Burma, young people had played a pivotal role in the uprisings, she said, applauding the influence of "young rappers" in Burma. "For those who believe in freedom, young rappers represent a future unbowed by... oppression and injustice."

During the live session, Aung San Suu Kyi was in the company of the BBC World Affairs Editor John Simpson. She said that in making her broadcasts she was "exercising my right to freedom of communication".

She spoke on the nature of being a dissident and talked with fondness of her colleagues in the NLD headquarters. "Their weapons are their faith, their armour is their passion," she said. Dissidents had chosen their path, she said, but "it's not a decision made lightly – we do not enjoy suffering, we are not masochists".

In a passionate address she quoted Czech dissident Vaclav Havel, the English poet William Henley and the Russian poet Irina Ratushinskaya, finishing with lines from Rudyard Kipling's The Fairies' Siege. In the second lecture, which will be broadcast on 5 July, Aung San Suu Kyi will speak of the forces aligned against her National League for Democracy.

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Medical & Economic Writer / Consultant

£23000 - £70000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity for a Me...

Jemma Gent: Year End Accountant

£250-£300 Day Rate: Jemma Gent: Are you a qualified accountant with strong exp...

Jemma Gent: Management Accountant

£230 - £260 Day Rate: Jemma Gent: Do you want to stamp your footprint in histo...

Beverley James: Accounts Payable

£22,000 - £23,000: Beverley James: Are you looking for the opportunity to work...

Day In a Page

HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?
How we must adjust our lifestyles to nature: Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch

Time to play God

Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch where we may need to redefine nature itself
MacGyver returns, but with a difference: Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman

MacGyver returns, but with a difference

Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman
Tunnel renaissance: Why cities are hiding roads down in the ground

Tunnel renaissance

Why cities are hiding roads underground
'Backstreet Boys - Show 'Em What You're Made Of': An affectionate look at five middle-aged men

Boys to men

The Backstreet Boys might be middle-aged, married and have dodgy knees, but a heartfelt documentary reveals they’re not going gently into pop’s good night
Crufts 2015: Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?

Crufts 2015

Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?
10 best projectors

How to make your home cinema more cinematic: 10 best projectors

Want to recreate the big-screen experience in your sitting room? IndyBest sizes up gadgets to form your film-watching
Manchester City 1 Barcelona 2 player ratings: Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man?

Manchester City vs Barcelona player ratings

Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man at the Etihad?
Arsenal vs Monaco: Monaco - the making of Gunners' manager Arsene Wenger

Monaco: the making of Wenger

Jack Pitt-Brooke speaks to former players and learns the Frenchman’s man-management has always been one of his best skills
Cricket World Cup 2015: Chris Gayle - the West Indies' enigma lives up to his reputation

Chris Gayle: The West Indies' enigma

Some said the game's eternal rebel was washed up. As ever, he proved he writes the scripts by producing a blistering World Cup innings
In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare and murky loyalties prevails

In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare

This war in the shadows has been going on since the fall of Mr Yanukovych
'Birdman' and 'Bullets Over Broadway': Homage or plagiarism?

Homage or plagiarism?

'Birdman' shares much DNA with Woody Allen's 'Bullets Over Broadway'
Broadchurch ends as damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

A damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

Broadchurch, Series 2 finale, review
A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower: inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

Inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower