Visio-conference with Aung San Suu Kyi

conversation with Sciences Po students in Le Havre


Burma’s democracy advocate and opposition leader speaks to students on Sciences Po’s Le Havre campus via video link from Rangoon

LE HAVRE - Aung San Suu Kyi, Burma’s leading opposition politician and Nobel laureate, says she has been guided by the “simple values” of duty, honesty and hard work in her struggle for democracy, and that “I’ve never thought of fear in regards of the future of our country.”

In an extraordinary video conversation with students from Sciences Po’s Europe Asia campus in Le Havre, Suu Kyi urged them to establish contact with as many young people in Burma as possible in order to help them “open up their minds.”

Speaking from her home in Rangoon, where she spent more than 15 years under house arrest, Suu Kyi was cautious about the political situation in Burma, which was ruled by a military junta for almost 40 years. Since elections were held in 2010, the nation has shown some signs of opening up, and Suu Kyi has been able to meet world leaders including U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

She told the students that the communications revolution that enabled contact with the outside world was critical for keeping people up to date with developments in Burma. Speaking of the Burmese diaspora, she said, “I would like them to keep an eye on events as they unfold and to promote the process of democratization by speaking out when they think that things are not going in the right direction, and at the same time, encouraging positive moves.” 

Asked about Burma's opening to the world, she said: “It's an exchange, it's not just a matter of Burma opening up to the world; it's also a matter of the world opening up to Burma. And this is something that we will have to learn to do as the process unfolds (...) Opening up begins with the mind, but of course, we will have to take into account other matters such as investment, development aid, other kinds of aids, tourism.”

In all these years, what guided her, the students wanted to know. Her answer: ”All along I have been guided by a sense of duty. Because I was brought up in a very simple way by my mother; a sense of duty was important, honesty was important, hard work was important, perseverance was important. I was brought up in what people would now call perhaps the old-fashioned way. But it certainly helped me to survive these years of struggle. And I hope that these values will help out in the future, to achieve the kind of society that we wish for our country.” 

As for fear: “I've never thought of fear in regards of the future of our country; I always thought in terms of hope and hard work. Fear? I think I could do without fear.”

Sciences Po is France’s leading university for social sciences. Students on its campus in Le Havre gave Suu Kyi a standing ovation when the video link was established. The interview was arranged by a relative of the Burmese leader, who is currently a student at Le Havre, one of seven Sciences Po undergraduate campuses around France. With 150 students from 30 countries, the campus focuses especially on Asia and Europe.

Campus director Delphine Grouès said that the event, “was an incredible and inspiring moment for our students. Aung San Suu Kyi is a historical figure of resistance and a key actor in a transitional moment in Burma. It was truly exceptional to connect her house to a Sciences Po classroom, a unique experience."