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tv   Book TV  CSPAN  May 27, 2012 9:15am-10:30am EDT

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enterprises were a sideline as someone who really would, we think of, as a job printer. that is, someone who's open to printing all kinds of stuff from anybody who had business. and engagement in around that revolutionary period, certainly the early federal period where you see that sideline disappears to the newspaper itself becomes the real focus. the first daily paper in the country is founded in 1783. and once the cities get to be a certain density, there's enough commerce, enough population, then in the early part of the 19th century they get going, and they really take off in the 1830s. >> so that's when it's fair to say for the first time that journalism is a business? >> oh, yes. it's clear by then, yes. >> you can watch this and other programs online at >> up next on booktv, peter
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popham talks about his biography of burma's aung san suu kyi is a longtime opposition leader and nobel peace prize recipient was elected to the lower house of the burmese parliament on april 1, 2012. in researching the book, he took over trips to burma and interviewed aung san suu kyi. >> and welcome. i'm michael robert, executive director of other programs here at asia society, and i want to welcome you all. it's a great pleasure to present an important and authoritative new biography, one of the most compelling figures of the last 25 years. it's the current embryonic transition in me and more succeeds in bringing that country back after its quarter-century of repression and stagnation and pariah status got a great deal of the credit will be owing to aung san suu kyi. in 1988, as i'm sure you all
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know, she was propelled from the obscurity of an english academic life to become leader of burma's democracy movement. and following her party's 1990 electoral victory in the subsequent military crackdown, she spent most of the next two decades under house arrest, like mahatma ghandi and nelson mandela before her, her oppressors only succeeded in making her an even more potent and important symbol of our country. and now that she's happily come out of confinement and will compete in the upcoming elections, the whole world is watching to see what the next chapter of this extraordinary story will be. this excellent book, "the lady and the peacock: the life of aung san suu kyi," will remain an indispensable part of that story. it will be on sale afterwards in back of the hall, and i hope you all buy it and the author peter
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popham will be happy to sign up for you. we're happy to have him with us tonight. he writes frequently for the british newspaper, the independent, and has reported from albania, mongolia, south asia, and now italy. he's also the author of tokyo, the city and the end of the world. i'm happy to say that asia society has been able to make important contributions which continue to implement the policy dialogue in the united states and asia, and to help make directly to attractive and other initiatives to bring about a democratic transition in myanmar. we're delighted that the architect of those efforts in asia sides vice president for global policy programs, suzanne dimaggio, to conduct our conversation with peter. suzanne is co-author with priscilla clapp of the asia society report, enhance -- a way forward for u.s. policy which i think you'll find copies of on future. i urge you all to read it. it is a really excellent and important piece of work.
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suzanne and her team are also doing important things in relation to iran, pakistan and afghanistan, and other complex issue areas facing asia in the world. this summer they will release a new report led by our senior asia society advisor who has assessed the current state of pakistan's police forces, and in a report that is co-authored by other pakistani and u.s. experts, they will present recommendations for enhancing institutional capacity within pakistani police forces. also, please come back on april 12 for another exceptional program on the same subject, which is called the u.s., pakistan and afghanistan, untangling without unraveling. this is part of our hbo sponsored series on asian hotspots, and it will feature doctor nasser, the newly named
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dean just yesterday of the johns hopkins school of advanced international studies, and a former adviser to asia society's late chair, richard holbrooke. volley nasa will be speaking with others. please check out asia society's website for additional information on this and other programs. or are also flies in back just a couple more housekeeping announcements pic if you are not members of asia society already, i hope you'll consider joining me present a great many number programs here and performances and work in all the disciplines and media in which asia society works. and its tremendous day for very small out of my so we hope you'll consider joining. i want to remind you that we are live webcasting tonight's program, and i'm also very happy to say that we are, it's being recorded for c-span or later rebroadcast. so we come to the question and
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answer, please be sure to wait for the microphone, and we may have questions from our online viewers. and if we do, any of you watching, feel free to write into moderator at asia and, of course, turn off your cell phones if you have them, and welcome, please, to peter popham and suzanne dimaggio. [applause] >> peter will read first, and then suzanne will join him for discussion. >> thanks very much. >> good evening. lovely to see so many people here today. i've been thinking about burma, visiting burma for more than 20 years. and have been writing this book four, i was in the process of
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researching and writing it for five or six years before it was actually finished. but certainly burma has never been so interesting and important as it is at this particular moment, so i feel very fortunate to have found an american publisher with energy and gumption to get it out exactly the right moment. and to the asia society for having a kindness and to welcome me to talk about it. i thought i would read a few pages from a book about the election of 1990 come because we are on the cusp, as you know, of a by election on sunday the first of april. it is only the third such election since 1990 older party election. 1990 election in 2010 and benefits by election was we
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followed was we fall but in a general election in 2015. so i think of be worthwhile looking back 22 years to aung san suu kyi's first appearance, not on the ballot papers because she was barred from standing in but the first appearance of her party and what transpired. on sunday, may 27, 1990, aung san suu still under detention of her home cast her vote in her countries first free general elections in 30 years. the ballot paper was put into an envelope which was sealed and taken from her home by a regime official. to most foreign observers it look like a futile gesture. no, the international media have been scrutinizing burma's
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upcoming paul, and concluding that it was bound to be raped. the military jeanette and everything in their power to ensure a good result. a win for the national unity party, the proxy party, as the ds bp, the burma socialist program party had been hurriedly rebranded. the top leadership of the national league for democracy have been put out of action with aung san suu under house arrest since july the 20th. 1989 i should say. the retired general who is chairman of the party and to it being detained the same day was sentenced to three years hard labor in december and taken to jail. most of their closest colleagues had been jailed and would not reemerge for years.
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the party was now run by a skeleton staff of those who remained at liberty, led by a 72 year-old, tubby wisecracking former colonel had been one of the first people to join suu, two summers before. in january the regime sought to neutralize the threat saw by suu of personal popular by barring her from standing as a candidate because of her marriage to a foreigner. a new rule. her image was everywhere in the campaign on banners, t-shirts, posters, badges and scarves. cassette tapes of her campaign speeches was sold for market stores in but the lady herself was firmly locked away. the general come had a military intelligence and the second most powerful man in the junta, into long speeches drove home the
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message that suu's party was in minustah the country's future. on august 5 he repeated the now familiar claim that the nld have been infiltrated by communists. the following month at a press conference where he spoke for seven hours, he made the diametrically opposite allegation that suu and her party by the heart of an international righteous conspiracy. emasculating the nld, however, was only part of the task of manufacturing a good result. estates law and order restoration council now set about tackling the remaining challenges with military
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thoroughness. other enemies of army rules were put on house arrest, including warmer prime minister. the regime identified city neighborhoods with a high proportion of opposition supporters and broke them up. in the months leading up to the election, at least half a million people around the country were forced to abandon their homes and move to crudely constructed and malaria ridden new townships far away. practically all conventional forms of campaigning, including rallies, door-to-door lobbying and media interviews, were banned. criticism of the military was a criminal offense. gatherings of more than five people remained in illegal under martial law and rules, though each party of the 93 registered for the poll was allowed to hold a single rally on condition that 70 days notice was given.
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even if so permitted a single preapproved 10 minute statement on state television, and 15 minutes on state radio. to make sure the heavens were on their side, the regime and made sure to pick a good day. may 27 contain a plethora of lucky nines, two plus seven for the day itself, plus the fact that fell in the fourth week of the fifth month. an offer from the u.s. to send election monitors was rebuffed him and all foreigners were banned from the country for weeks before the election. on the eve of polling, the generals could be well pleased with their handiwork. myanmar, as she now was, had been for the rigor for the past 24 months since no wins crashed into two be monetized the country than show something into
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the arrangements by raising the possibility of multiparty elections. but since the locking up of that woman, as he referred to suu, he refuse to pronounce it in, the situation had improved all round. the socialist ideology which had conditioned policy for generations was consigned to the waistband along with the bspp, as burma reopened for business. some western countries may have found it awkward feeling on normal trade terms with a country that had slaughtered thousands of its unarmed citizens in cold blood. but thailand, singapore and south korea had no such inhibitions. snacking up contracts to extract timber, jd, precious stones and seafood at bargain prices. a south korean company, became the first foreign company to be
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allowed to export the oil onshore, rapidly followed by shell, petro canada and finally the american oil firms, amoco and the locale. when the army rolled into downtown brampton on september 18, 1988, the nation's for exchange reserves have been less than $10 million. now they were between 200-300 billion. tight security prevented any significant demonstrations to mark the anniversary of the great uprising of 88, or the military crackdown of the following month. meanwhile, a further sign of america's softening approach, the generals and coca-cola signed a deal to bottle its drinks in burma. to demonstrate to the general public and the world at large, they knew a thing or two about good governance, a major cleanup
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campaign was launched reminiscent of the operation in 1958 and his caretaker government. and rank as public buildings cleaned with fresh paint. the governments of western europe and the u.s. remained dubious, unwilling to forget how he had come to power. but an election run with military efficiency producing a solid working majority for the in ub, or with the vote share between such a plethora of parties that the army would be fully justified in regaining control, would surely bring them round. so confident with the generals that they began to relax a little. they admitted a handful of foreign journalists and television news crews to watch the burmese lineup and the. as polling day approached, martial law restrictions were partially lifted. the soldiers thronging suu's
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village were tempered replaced by police and plainclothes. armed and uniformed police disappeared from the streets. it was the usual armies vanishing trick, as seen on the day of suu's mothers fear, another manifestation of a zero-sum attitude toward power where the arm is either overwhelmingly present or totally absent. but even its absent, everyone knows they are not far away. the nld took advantage of the pullback today to the streets in their pickup trucks, imploring the people of rangoon to be sure to give them their votes. in the end of the people needed no imploring. the lines began forming outside schools and government offices where voting was to take place early, sorry, where voting was to take place early on the morning of may 27. the army again was conspicuous by its absence.
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the voting was overseen by civilians, as if burma's conversion to civilian rule that happen by magic overnight. people put on their sunday best to perform this important and extremely rare civic duty. as in india, every registered party was symbolized by an icon depicted on the voting slip. these included a beach ball, a calm, a tennis racket, and an umbrella. powerfully exalted in passionate exotic cells such as a peacock which is now the end of the symbol in the present election, were banned. but the nlb had chosen the farmers a straw hat to symbolize their party, making it easy for supporters to indicate their preference while appearing to in normal rustic costume. nationwide, more than 20 million people were eligible to vote.
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in seven constituencies where the army was fighting insurgents, polling was canceled altogether but in many of the border areas only a fraction of registered voters manage to vote because of the violence. but in most of the country, the turnout was heavy with some 72% casting their votes in total. late on the night of polling, the chinese news service was the first foreign news agency to report the first result of burma's first election for 30 years. the end of the candidate, a woman, obtained over half the votes cast. that result was followed by a flood more. and to the shock and horror of the military, the overwhelming majority of results went the same way. voters did not care for the evergreen young men's association, a national peace
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party, the league for democracy and peace, nor for the army's favor, the nep. aung san suu's party was sweeping the board. thank you. [applause] >> thank you everyone, and welcome to today's -- thank you, michael, for the introduction and thank you, peter, for joining us today. i have many, many questions. i'm going to be mindful of the time because i know you do, too. i want to make sure we get as many as possible. but let's begin with i guess the obvious, and what everyone wants to hear about, this meeting of aung san suu. you did so twice. the first time was in 2002. she had just been released from house arrest, and then most recently he met her in march 2011. so there was about a decade
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stand in between. so first, was there anything that struck you in that time period that changed about her? and secondly, well, described the meetings in general, but also when you told her you were writing a biography about her, how did she react? >> she wasn't remotely interested. [laughter] she didn't want to know. and, in fact, to my surprise and slight disappointment, she didn't want to help. subsequently after the book was published i got a copy of the book to her by the british embassy in roentgen, and she wrote me a very gracious e-mail thanking me for my effort. but i think it's part of her remarkably un-egotistical character, that she doesn't care that people write books about her and she does want to read and but she certainly doesn't want to endorse them. so that was the message which i took away, unfortunately. >> a difference between then and
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now? >> well, 2002 was a bit like last august when things started to shift rapidly. it seemed that things are really on the move in 2002. she was released and then it was this very dynamic you been in voice who was facilitating negotiations between her and others. they seemed keen to bring the nld into a dialogue and her in particular. and i run around ranting. although i had a choice of these, i ran around talking to lots of people, some very close to the regime, so close to her and the party, and the impression i took away was that they were going to do the deal. that a deal was in the offing, as she and the party would come back into the constitutional process and the whole thing would start again. the thing was derailed in the
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mid '90s would start again. >> and now let's talk about, her diaries provided a key source for the biography that you wrote. she was one of suu's closest companion and confidence who reportedly was turned by military intelligence and many now see it as a traitor to the nld. so tell us how you obtained the diaries to the extent that you can tell us, and you have met her. how did she react to the fact that you had the diaries and you're using them as a source and writing this book? >> she was quite relaxed about it. i matter to the wife of one my best friends who happens to be ma thanegi's close friend and some contact with the birds landed privilege introduction to
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her, and it was a person in london gave me the diaries. i can't reveal the persons name, but when i told ma thanegi that i got these books, she was pleased. because her story is that she was, she's a fluent english speaker. she was the wife, divorced wife of a diplomat, and brought up in international schools, and a very good writer. and she became suu's close companion during the first campaign tours in 1989, 88-89. and she went everywhere with suu, often sleeping in the same room, same cabin, in the same boat, being with her all the time, taking care of her needs and so one. and act request of michael, suu's husband, she was writing a daily diary of what happened. when i found this, i me, it was
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absolutely gold and because part of from writing about suu is that we know the bare facts of her life, everyone knows, but there isn't a great deal of human detail. and ma thanegi provided this detail, along with humor and interesting insights, charm. you know, i mean, anybody, readable, you will find that it throws her, it puts a completely new and very charming light, in fact. it brings out the human dimension of suu. been in july 1989, when suu was put in house arrest, ma thanegi and all of the other people close to her in the party, although ma thanegi was in the party, but of the closest colleagues were taken to in same prison in the middle of an northern rangoon and put in jail. and she didn't get out for three years. i me, she told her while she was
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there she had all night interrogations, and i was informed by two sources who i think are very trustworthy that she was prevailed on to basically to change sides, and since 1995 when suu came out of house arrest she became a very valuable critic of suu and a very valuable critic of sanctions and she never missed an opportunity to talk to the likes of me and the likes of others who wrote a piece about an impartial about her in "the new yorker." in which she said over and over again the same thing, sanctions are all wrong, suu is very stubborn, she's driving burma into poverty and she must be stopped. so what happened, a beautiful friendship turned into a, and a
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very ugly in the effects pick and as she read the book? >> she has. i went to great trouble to make sure checkup, and i've received a number, rather hostile letters from her. [laughter] >> okay. one other thing i want to address is -- i think a lot of the previous biographies, biographical accounts of her fell into one of two categories. you been seeing her as this divine being, like almost superhuman, and in others to critique her for being, like you said, stubborn, focus on the sanctions, also coming under criticism for, you know, so-called of maintaining her family, her two young sons and her husband, to pursue a career in politics or your book i think really presents the complex
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picture of probably as close to reality as we have seen. so through this journey of writing this book, having access to the diaries, meeting her yourself, what are the key characteristics about her that you think people just don't know? >> well, i think people are confused by your. the question of stubbornness is irrelevant in my opinion. it's a fact that she was extremely and totally inexperienced when she first got into politics in 88, and made lots of mistakes as a result. it's also true that she is not a natural politician. i me, she was never involved in politics of any sort before 1988. but i think one can look back on past 23 years of her life, extraordinary life she has led
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and see that she wouldn't be where she is today without some quite remarkable qualities. and the quality which i identified is when she, at quite an early age she knew who she was, she knew what she wanted, and she cultivated the willpower to achieve it. she came to england, to oxford, to study at oxford in 1964, and there was a ten-year period between arriving in england and getting married. and in that period, having been under the thumb of her very feared another throughout her child, she sort of blossomed in various ways. she took all sorts of odd decisions. she came to study politics, philosophy and economics at oxford. didn't like it. tried twice to change subjects.
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once to english and once to forestry. both times she was refused to so she ended up getting a very poor degree. she was not, not a thing to be proud of but should never shown any sign of being ashamed of it neither i really only study when i'm interested. when she was at university she fell in love with a student, a pakistani, and the relationship continued after she graduated, and ended in tears, and then she fell in love with a man who became her husband. i sort of see her mom back in rangoon. i can end this and dutch that i can envision her getting these letters and reading in english as she saw the strange decisions that suu is taking. she was conventional and unimaginative, a beautiful
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daughter of the family would graduate with a good degree and fly back to burma and mary a suitable boy, or something like that. instead, what did she do? after graduating, she flew to new york to deliver a friend, an older lady, who was a former top seen in rangoon before the war. and she stayed in new york nearly three years and worked for the united nations. so again, she was very much doing what she wanted, which i want to do this, and she was sorry that her parents, that her mother wasn't happy about it. but it was her life. and so i see this kind of quite early on, she got her own compass and that's what she follows spent another key point you make in the book is she is so important to burma for many reasons, but one of them you say
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is her insistence, even from the first days of her involvement in the uprising in 1988. of nonviolence. and without her insisting on a, do you think perhaps the burmese revolution may have taken a different course? and even up to now we may have seen a different course for burma. and then you go on and make the point that because of this, it's so important to burma but important to the world, this value over point of view or philosophy she a spouse of nonviolence approach to democracy. talk a little bit about that? >> i think that she thought, she listened in india for three or four years and her adolescence when her mother was the burmese ambassador in delhi, and she clearly absorbed -- absorbed a lot from india, and this
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actually only surfaced in her scholarly work many years later. before she went back to burma. but as you say, she was very, very clear about nonviolence, which, of course, was called indian bouncer, right from the outset. she was quite -- about a big it a big it was very, very important because the student who are at the cutting edge of the uprising were by no means nonviolence. i mean, there were terrible atrocities committed in the early months of the uprising. a lot of people have their heads cut off. me, there was a lot of very nasty bloodshed. and for the role model for many of the students of the time is what was happening on the borders, the insurgency which the koran and the burmese army. many of the students saw that as the way to go.
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and she insisted that nobody interparty could use violent means but and she successfully prevailed. her mass meetings in 1989 became famous for their completely good humor and for the lack of any disturbances. i know you wrote this book, finished it before her reemergence into the political world. and certainly before she announced her candidacy for parliament. and as you mentioned, the intellectual action take place on sunday. so, throughout the course of stabbing her life, did you ever imagine that it would take a turn like this? and with the elections to held on sunday, what, or how do you see her future unfolding? >> i don't think that one wrote
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off the possibility that things will change again. it seemed, seemed unlikely, but in as i said in 2002 there was an opening. in 2004 they started negotiations with there. really we needed to get the strongman out of the picture, because he couldn't stand her name, or anything about her stint do you think he is really out of the picture? >> i believe so, yes. i can't -- were discussing this before and i thought it was hard to believe that key -- he tried to assassinate her in 2003, very nearly succeeded. so i mean, one didn't see it coming. i think everyone was stunned and amazed and delighted when things started to move in august and september last year them but one can't say it was a shot and it was a delightful surprise.
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now, i think in terms of for we joining political politics and as an opposition leader, that it's clear that she's taken a bit of a calculated risk by joining the very system, and people, who can find her in the first place, but i guess making a leap of faith that being on the inside she has a better chance of pushing them a crack economic social reform in the country and working from the outside. do you think that that is the right decision? this decision has led many to criticize her. something she should stay outside of government and remained a staunch critic that she can be. how do you fall in this argument? >> well, i think that considering her goal in life is not to be an icon of democracy
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but to change your country, and the age of 66, i don't think she had any serious alternative plunging in. certainly there were people, senior people in her party who thought it was a very poor idea. many people in burmese will say the same thing but i think she was confronted by the desperate need to get things actually moving in burma. she saw, particularly with the president as a person who she said, i can trust and he is a good list of the she saw that this was the however flawed, however limited, this was the opportunity to be grabbed. i think she was right to do so. >> i want to take a quote from a recent op-ed like thomas fuller. he rides by entering politics at this delicate stage, aung san suu is imparting legitimacy on a government running on passionate run by the same general for three decades. if they falter, aung san suu
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could be held partly responsible. that seems a little bit harsh, with the weight of the world on her shoulders like that, but i guess, dinner, the bigger question is in terms of reforms themselves, i know you've written recently in "the new york times," you expressed some skepticism about how you stand on the reform thing they are most at this stage still symbolic. although of course welcomed. but still needed to go a bit further. so i wanted to get your thoughts on, specifically, what you think needs to happen to make those reforms take deeper root become irreversible. what would be the key prerequisites before, in your mind, you say this is really something different.
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>> i mean, i think that the key thing that needs to happen is constitutional reform. the election of 2010, the election of this week is on the basis of the 20 -- 2000 a constitution, which gives a military 25% of seats in parliament without any election, and puts a military council with enormous unspecified powers above parliament, and able to declare martial law at any time. suu herself declared constitutional reforms to be her first priority. and i think that, i mean, one can see what's likely to happen because there's too many powerful people have a vested interest in the constitution. but who knows? on, crazy things have happened in the last nine months. let's hope she know something we don't, and that is the next stage. >> and had there been in reforms that have come or as a surprise?
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clearly, the political reform, the fact that opposition politics is back on the scene in burma. but even the economic reforms seem to be signaling a change with new investment laws, the currency float. but i guess the one criticism people have is the reforms have not extended into the field of human rights, or address significantly the ethnic conflicts. has anything surprised you in there? what you see as most significant and what you see as the biggest challenge? >> no, i mean, i think human rights certainly have been given prominence. you have a human rights commission which is supposedly doing some work. the economy is absolutely critical. friends of mine who returned
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from burma the other day said everything has changed at all of their friends are out of jail. you can see which you like, you know you're no longer followed around on the streets. it's like a different country. and so the economy is still dead in the water. there are no new jobs, and reform even, reforming the economy is an enormous task. and, of course, that's where -- we enter very delicate territory because as i'm sure many people here, at least aren't as aware as i'm, sanctions are the only lever we have on burma. and so we must time the lifting of the sanctions with great care and the stiffness. but it's clear that for the burmese to fully get behind the reform, they need to see some improvement in their standard of living, and that has not happened yet. >> so let's talk a little bit about sanctions because
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obviously in washington, people will be watching this election very closely. and many people have argued that if the election is conducted in a reasonably open and fair way, and i say recently because there probably will be some instances of irregulars. there already have been. but some advocate that once we get over this election and she is in parliament, that this is probably a time to start lifting of trade and investment sanctions. what do you think what do you think that goes far enough? do you think more prisoners need to be released, or is this a process that has to unfold gradually? >> well, i think that these friends of mine who came back said that the great majority have been released. there are some locked away for strange reasons still, including members of the entourage were
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locked up in 2004. but those sort of things have been done to a large extent. but in a way these are relatively easy things to do. once you decided to make these gestures, and you know, people come out onto the street, the hard thing as i said is to change the constitution, which the government has shown no interest in doing. it seems to me that the most important and significant sanctions should remain in place, until there is some indication of movement towards a more genuine, thoroughgoing constitution in burma. >> let's stay on the u.s. policy for just a second. some critics have said that u.s. policies is just too dependent on aung san suu kyi in what she says and what she thinks, and at the time has come now for the
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u.s. to reach out to others and opposition movement and civil society to help inform the decision. what is your take on that in terms of the fact that it does seem that she is extraordinary, and rightfully so, i mean, extraordinary influence on how lawmakers in washington decide what and what not to do on burma policy? >> it doesn't seem that, doesn't? i think they should innocents hold the fate of the country in her hands there are plenty of others, opposition politicians, with maybe experience, some with great it political experience who are around. but i think in the last nine months she has, well, since her release in november 2010, she has justified the faith that western leaders have put in her. her statements and her moves
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have been very measured, very proven, carefully calculated. and i think that she is proving an extremely useful and effective interlocutor between the -- the western wall, which is the role he marked out for her, and the role which the west is also happy for her to perform. ..
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>> sorry if i mispronounce his name, but i've heard the former ambassador to the u.n. say that sanctions against burma were a tragedy of the west because they made us feel better about ourself but make any change -- but didn't make any change. how do you think his comments stack up today? >> um, many people who would like to do business with burma has been chomping at the bit for many years. after all, it is one of the last remaining largely unexploited corners of asia. people have been dying to get there, to get their hands on it for a long time. and as we saw from the passage which i read, the oil companies had very little concern for the
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human rights situation when they started onshore explorations in burma. um, i think one simply has to decide whether the human rights situation in the country is significant or not. and when you've got the sort of appalling human rights situation that you've seen in burma ever since the autumn of 1988 and arguably long before that, then, you know, does the west have a duty to stand up and try and change that behavior or not? i mean, it's a crucial kind of debating question. the fact that we are now where we are and that the massive burmese can now read what newspaper they want, vote for who they want in the elections, that they can start trade unions, they can go in and out of the country, and with a bit
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of luck in a year or two they will even have some jobs, this is all partially thanks to what the west has done. so, no, i don't think it's a mistake. >> yes. wait for the microphone, please. >> dee stone, i'm a writer. i wanted to get your take on why you think the generals are making this change at this time. it just seems too good to be true. >> it's extraordinary, isn't it? and i think that there are various reasons, but the most interesting one is that burma in the absence of much of a trading relationship with the west has been, has found itself in an ever closer embrace with china which has been coming too close. china is just over the border there, and there is a burmese proverb, a rather unpleasant
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burmese proverb that reads when china spits, burma swims. and burma is like other southeast asian curves, it's prone to feeling in danger from china, under danger of being colonized, taken over. and the dam project came to crystallize those fears. this is a chinese-financed dam on the river which is a symbol of the country. and 90% -- not only were the chinese building the dam, but they were going to import 90% of the electricity back into china. well, of course, burma has got appalling electricity provision. and it was one of the clearest signs that the president has his head screwed on when he announced the suspension of that dam project in the middle of last year. so i think that is a very
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significant factor in what's happening. >> yes. you in the blue. >> yeah, hi. my name is dave. i'm wondering what you think in the near future access to this country will be as far as for foreign journalists. it seems like in the last few months foreign reporters from western news organization have been able to not pretend to be tourists, but actually go in with a journalist visa, for a few weeks, they get out and file their stories. as far as having resident journalists who can stay there and really sink themselves into the country, do you think the government will allow that anytime soon? >> well, yes, i mean, it's happening already. apparently the democratic voice of burma, dvb, which was based in oslo, was founded in oslo and stayed there, is setting up an office in rangoon. so certainly burmese nationals are able to practice journalism
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or believe they will be able to practice free journalism inside the country. for foreigners the picture remains very hazy and very hard to pin down. when friends of mine applied for journalist visas months ago and received no feedback of any be sort which, of course, is typical. my own paper's correspondent got in with, once again w a tourist visa and is 2350eu8ing under a fake -- is filing under a fake name which is the way we always used to have to function. it's happening very spottily with regard to foreigners. i mean, people get in with particular politicians. william hague, the british foreign secretary, brought in a bunch of journalists, and they were able to work. but they don't seem to have decided what they really want to do about this. i mean, there is this kind of xenophobic element in the
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burmese military psyche which cannot be underestimated. >> yes, right next -- across the aisle. >> hi, marcy getland, i've been to burma twice. give the pace of -- given the pace of these reforms that seem to have done a complete about face. there's been criticisms that the motives of the hundred that and the generals are suspect and also, and i've heard this even from burmese friends of mine here in new york. the fact that aung san suu kyi was out of sight in a way for all those years that perhaps her relevance to any change is -- one might question her relevance to any change that is going to come or has come thus far, and i wonder if you could comment on those two aspects.
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>> well, i think one has to have great respect for anything that the burmese say about the situation as opposed to us non-burmese commenting on it. i mean, it's true that she was out of the picture for ages and ainges, and when -- ages, and when she emerged, she'd never used a mobile phone, and she had no idea what twitter was. um, i think she's caught up. she's been working hard to catch up. working hard is the one thing she knows how to do, is so the only thing i can say clearly is if someone is going to emerge who is a more plausible democratic opposition leader, they haven't emerged yet. >> any other questions? yes, all the way in the back there. >> i'm bill mcgowan, an author and a journalist. i wrote a book about political
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buddhism in i have lank ca. i'm going back to -- >> oh, really? >> i'm curious, when i go back, will i find the song georgia, the group the monks, will they be more 34reu9 sized than they were 20 years ago? >> thank god to have that question. i spent quite a long time in sirri lank ca in 2010 after getting expelled from burma, and i think the situation makes a fascinating contrast because as your aware -- as you're aware, they both have very similar variations of buddhism. and they're both quite devout countries. but the burmese zonk georgia with certain exceptions has had the great sense and the great wisdom to avoid being
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politicized. now, that might sound strange because, of course, you have the saffron revolution with the hundreds of thousands of monks marching through the streets of the cities. but as -- there's a scholar of buddhism here in the states called ingrid george who's written a fascinating book about meditation in burma. and she pointed out this was not a political demonstration. this purely a manifestation of their approval. it did not have an overtly political dimension, and it's interesting to see in the recent campaign the sang georgia has been nowhere to be seen. in sirri lank ca you have the
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desperate situation where there is an extreme, chauvinist buddhist party. unfortunately, burma is free of such an abomination. >> any other questions from the audience? you have a second question? [laughter] >> just curious for the common citizen, you live in rangoon, i mean, what are the living conditions? do they have power 24 hours a day or not? even in china, you can still read "the new york times" online in china. i'm wondering if they're fluent in english, understanding foreign news and just their daily living conditions. >> well, i mean, they've had, they've had the internet for a long time, they've had cable tv. i mean, this is one of the reasons that the place has been changing so fast in the past ten years, is because all of this stuff has come in.
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during the saffron revolution, the very brave cameramen with dvb filmed it, managed to get the film out. cnn put it all over their news broadcasts, and i was actually in burma during the saffron revolution sitting in an outdoor café in the far south of the country, and there were two it'll screens, one had a japanese samurai drama on, the other one had the burmese monks moving like a great sea through the streets of rangoon. and the burmese in the coffee shop were kind of -- watching like this without saying anything. so if you go to rangoon, try to connect to the internet. it will drive you insane. because, well, in the anyway because the government's always trying to make it more difficult. and yet people have the ingenuity to do it. and there are internet cafés all over the place.
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>> right. i was in burma just in january and went to all the subversive web sites and got through. >> did you really? >> yes. >> wow. that's huge. >> the real problem was, and i called new york times subversive. i put it in that category. but the real problem was more the technical aspect of being able to get a reliable connection. but when you did, you really had access to anything and everything. >> well, that's completely new. >> it is new. >> the last time i was there you couldn't get anything. >> right. >> really. >> and, of course, i was only in the urban center. >> do they even have power 24 hours a day? >> in the two weeks i was there in january power went out twice, but only for several moments at a time when i understand is quite good. and is improving. >> i think rangoon is much better than country towns. >> yes. >> where there's no electricity at all or very, very
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unpredictable. it reminds meover some of the -- of some of the poorer indian states, similarly ill-governed. >> and i think you have a follow-up question? >> i just wanted to answer the question. i made my first trip to burma in 2001 and my second in 2004. so i've seen my friends there only, basically, twice in all these years. and i've communicated with them during the last 11 years primarily by internet. i get e-mails from them, they send me photographs of their kids, um, there have been times especially when there's been unrest in burma that, you know, i won't hear from them, and then they may say that there were problems with the internet connections. thai very good -- they're very good at, as i gather other people there are, maneuvering around the official internet
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service providers. but i've had regular contact with them. in terms of the power, the two trips i made there were periods of time where power did go out for a number of hours. most people had generators at their homes or at their places of business so that this was an ongoing, um, an ongoing problem. but, again, they were very resourceful about -- they prepared for it. so that's just this take on it. >> and i think the question was here in the front. wait so that the recording can get you. right here, the blue shirt. >> do you feel the ld's participation in the election is forcing them to make these truces? >> i don't think it's that way around. it's clear that the cease fire
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which is the first official cease fire ever, this was a quite serious push by the government to bring some sort of resolution. you still have this very nasty or war going on in the kachin area. i haven't been to the insurgency area for a long time, and i'm afraid i cannot pronounce with any authority on the situation there except to say suu kyi knows unless there is a serious peace settlement involving the ethnic minorities, burma's future will remain cloudy. >> and i understand the army's not totally following all the truces? >> i think that's right. as you know, i expect you know, i mean, there are so many complicated commercial interests, interests of warlords
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and smuggling, and each situation is different which is why bringing peace to the ethnic areas is probably the biggest challenge of the lot. >> i think there's a question right here in the front. >> um, i was in burma the summer of 2010, and cynthia was with me, and we had what i would call a young dissident guide. and he was, he had a lot of fear. he and his brother were both in university. his brother had been arrested, and for a long, long time and finally was released but in no shape at all. he was beaten senseless pretty much. so our guide was very interested in our news from the west. and this is, this was probably five months before aung san suu kyi was released. >> yeah. >> so he actually took us by the
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leg, and he did a little ruse where he bought a pack of cigarettes, and we stood in the fore grand, and we moved all around but i guess the question i have is that i don't think we know so much that the university, the site of these beautiful universities have been moved 150 miles out of rangoon. and given what's been going on in the arab spring, part of the reason the generals did this is they did not want any youthful uprisings. so i wonder if you could speak to that point. are they, are the universities still out in the hinterlands in stupid buildings, or are they -- what's happened? >> well, of course, i know, yes. no, it's one of the many tragedies that have befallen burmese education, is destruction of these, you know, what were ramshackle but still serious institutions now sent way out into the middle of no. no --
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nowhere. whether that's going to change, i don't think, but it won't be a priority. it certainly suits the regime to have the students a long way away. >> i think the same can be said about the movement of the capitol and having visited that capitol, it's clearly made so that there are no protests or even people gathering. it's just impossible. so it is an important question, and i guess the bigger question is what will happen to the capitol as countries are not setting up embassies there. >> right. >> and maybe a few are now. i think bangladesh and a couple of others. and will the capital return to -- >> start another one in the old burmese way. seems a bit wasteful, doesn't it? enter yes. it was quite a scene, quite an unbelievable city to be in. >> one of the most enjoyable
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moments of this burmese election campaign has been, um, suu taking her wagons to knew by door and holding campaign meetings there which i thought showed typical spunk and kind of in-your-face attitude. >> well, if she is elected, she'll be spending a lot of time there. the parliament building is enormous be. >> yeah. i was told that a friend of mine who was a former ambassador there said nps are, basically, hostages. they cannot leave unless they have a letter of permission from the senior authorities. >> maybe that's a lesson for washington there? [laughter] >> whether that will apply to suu, i somehow don't think it will. >> right. one more question. >> hi. i'm michelle fonzo, and i lived and worked in burma in 2002 and
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2003 with others at the u.n.. >> really? >> my question comes from also having recent experience working in afghanistan, another very different country in transition. one of the things we've heard recently is a thurm of donor countries -- is a number of donor countries supporting the changes in burma with proposed or actual overseas development aid increases. and often when this well-meaning effort happens, if it's not directed well, it can often have unintended negative consequences. do you have any comment on what would really be the best way for international organizations and donors to support the changes there? would it be through the government or supporting local ngos? what are your thoughts on that? >> very important, but a difficult question. i mean, there have been a number of international ngos working in burma, particularly since
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nargas. a number of organizations did get their feet on the ground, and they did actually begin to develop some presence there and start doing good work. and i think that's a good place to start. i mean, one of the tragedies of burma has been that civil society was essentially erased for most of the years, of the last 20 years as you know. and that's coming back into shape very, very slowly and fitfully. but that would be a good place to start. >> well, i think we have come to the end of our program. before we thank peter, i do want to, um, call your attention to the book signing that will happen right behind us, and i do urge you to stay and meet peter and purchase a book. it is a great read and would make a great gift for a -- >> thank you very much. that's very generous.
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thank you. this is actually the american -- she's got the british one. >> i have the british version. [laughter] >> which do you like better? >> well, we were discussing this before -- >> yeah, i think we decided -- >> i have to say, there's publishers in the room, i think the american one is much better. [laughter] >> and i agree. um, and also i know michael told you a little bit about some of the upcoming programs we have, but let me just say that that's just the tip of the ice berg of what's happening here at the asia society. it's still -- i've been working here almost five years, and it still stuns me how much happens in this building. not only in the area of our museum, but arts and cultural performance cure rated by my colleague, rachel cooper, events like this, policy events, business events. so, please, go to our web site, to see for yourself if you don't know us
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already. and the best way to stay in touch and know about everything we're doing is, of course, to join us as a member. so if you'd like to join us, please, talk to any of the staff here, and we can help you. now, let us give peter a big round of applause for joining us. thank you, peter. [applause] >> we'd like to hear from you. tweet us your feedback, >> he was in a silver opal. cars are everyone in iraq drives and no one in america knowsal about. but, again, the suspicion was raised when i realized the back of the car was a little lower to the ground that the front.hen and given the rules ofof t engagement, you can't just shoot someone because they looked suspicious. well, sir, scott, why did you shoot him? well, i got scared. you got scared so you killed a
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man?? well, yeah, sir. like, i have a gun. like, you can't do that. and given the rules of engagement, you can't just shoot someone unless you know they have a weapon, you know they're aiming or you know that they've been, they've killed someone, oa they're -- i should say, they're in the action. a so given the rules of th engagement, i couldn't justor t shoot someone that looked suspicious. so i knew the best thing to do was to yell at him to get out oe his car. so as i did, i was looking overg my left shoulder kind of facing him, and i was in the leads stryker vehicle, had metal up to, basically, my name tape. all around me.him. i was inside the stryker, standing up. i still had my m4, my oakleys, had my kevlar on, doing everything that i was supposed to do. looked at him and said, hey, get out of your vehicle.
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and i knew he heard me because hesa looked over his shoulder straight at me and raised his hands off the steering wheel and then put them back down. nothing happened.f th i was like, okay, well, maybe he understood, or maybe he's saying i don't know where i am, i'm lost. i didn't know. so i yelled at him again. he raised his hands again up off the steering wheel and shook hi. head, no, and then let his foot off the brake. i then had to make a decision. so i h shot two rounds in frontt his vehicle with my m4 and, boom, my world went black. i woke up a week or so laettner walter reed -- later in walter reed army medical center. my world went black not only physically, being blind the resd of my life, a shrapnel had cut my left eye in half, entered the frontal lobe of the let's side of my -- left side of my brain going through my cornea, back
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through my retina and taking out my optic nerve. i saw nothing but blackness and was told by the ophthalmologist that you would never be able to see again. so my life went physically blacl that day. but it also went spiritually black. i no longer believed in god. everything that i had done,t everything that i believed inirt now no longer meant anything to me. i remember one of my best friends, edward, coming into the room. i think it was before one of my surgeries and said, hey, scottye why don't you say a prayer? i said, no. i don't know how to pray, and i don't know god. i think it -- the room went dead silent. like, if there were cockroaches in the room, you would have heard 'em.dead my wife went back to her room w realizing, you know, i've beenou married to an awesome man, and i still am, and i'd be fine being
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married to a blind guy, but being married to to someone who -- to someone who didn't believe what he believed before, that was different.beli so she began to pray. friends began to pray all around thean world. and for me it was a choice i had to make, it was a personal choice i had to make. i knew i had support.had friends would come into my room on a daily basis singing songs, christian songs.ail i know the doctors thought it was creepy. i thought the room was huge, apparently, it was like a little matchboxcar. but it was that support. but, again, it still came back to me. i was the one that had to choose to make a difference. my company commander a called me every other day to see how i wa. doing. we were awesome friends. my brigade commander would call me every week to see how i was doing. something that doesn't normally happen in an organization, tomad have the top leadership call yoo to see how you're doing? the support that i had washa amazing, was awesome.
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and people like toby keith, country singer, gary sinise, th, actor, generals, three-stars, four-star would come in and try to see me, and i'd say, no, i don't want to see them. no thank you.s, and one day my wife said, scotty, andrew wants to see you. she didn't say who it was, but something hit me. ite was andrew harris, the boy who i had taught sunday school with three years earlier had and driven down from west point, new york, with his dad to come and see me.earl and i don't know if i knew thatt day or in the days to come that the impact that i had made oni o that young child had done a 180. and now this child wasad positivelye impacting me in an amazing way. >> you can watch this and other programs online at


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