(Interview) - In a speech delivered in Naypyitaw on Wednesday, President Thein Sein said that organizations and people in exile could come back home by contacting their state or regional governments. Mizzima reporter Ko Wild interviewed exile-based political activists on their opinions on the president’s call.
Dr. Naing Aung, general-secretary Forum for Democracy in Burma
I think they need to issue an official law, order or decree rather than an oral offer. So we can know clearly what this involves, a general amnesty or what? Our political forces here left home because there was no democracy or human rights in the country and there were no political freedoms because of repression.
If there these rights will exist, we will come back home and work in our homeland. We have no reason to stay here. If they cannot guarantee these rights to us, the situation will not be what we need. If President Thein Sein said this honestly for the sake of national reconciliation and peace, he needs to invite the people in exile with a clear official announcement and an order. And then he must guarantee the political freedoms that we have always called for. He needs to guarantee not to take any action on any offence [an amnesty].
Ngwe Lin, general-secretary Democratic Party for a New Society
Whether to go back home or not mainly depends on the existence of democracy and human rights and it depends on whether we can build a federal union that we have called for.
As far as I understand it, these things cannot be achieved under the rule of Thein Sein’s government or under the 2008 Constitution. Therefore, what he said has no significant meaning to us regardless of what he said.
If he really wants to build a genuine federal union, a new state with permanent peace, a new state with full democracy, then first he needs to release all the political prisoners, build a genuine peace across the country and convene an all-inclusive political dialogue. Without these things, such an invitation will have no meaning. It will just be a PR campaign.
If they issue a general amnesty order like in 1980, some of our idealist friends might go back home. But I think, under a situation of no concrete proposals about the future, no one will go back home. If one considers going back home under these circumstances, it would be foolish.
Nyo Ohn Myint, in-charge of the foreign affairs department of the National League for Democracy (Liberated Area)
I’d like to say President’s Thein Sein speech is constructive but I have to say that for all the people in exile including the politicians who left their homes because of their political beliefs that if the government does not recognize their political beliefs it will be difficult to say this is really an offer of national reconciliation.
I think they will release political prisoners in dribs and drabs. No one will go back home if their security is not guaranteed and there are no political guarantees. No one will go back home if they cannot do politics in Burma. I think it will be more appropriate to welcome these people with a political guarantee.
Tin Tin Nyo, secretary Women League of Burma
From the point of view of those who are devoting their lives to this democratic struggle, and judging what happened in exile throughout these years, it is not logical to hear him saying everyone can come back home. If they really want us to come back home, they must make proper arrangements between the two sides. Now what they offer is like surrendering to go back to the legal fold. I think this is a careless and irrational statement.
What I’d like to suggest to President Thein Sein is to halt all offensives along the border rather than just saying you can come back. It’s important for him to work to establish a genuine peaceful democracy at the earliest date through talking with Aung San Suu Kyi. And then he must work to find an economic solution for the people, a solution for economic crisis is a priority. And then I wish he would work for the refugees along the border to alleviate their plight, the lack of food and lack of shelter.
Myo Win, vice chairman All Burma Students Democratic Front
He didn’t talk about the most important thing: how to resolve the political issue. Just saying to come back home cannot resolve the crises and issues in Burma. If President Thein Sein wants to resolve all the issues in the country peacefully, the most important thing is, as we’ve always said, is to engage in a dialogue with all forces and stakeholders in these conflicts on an equal footing.
Without an equal political dialogue, just calling for people to come back home will not resolve the political issues. Similarly, just a cease-fire agreement cannot resolve the current armed conflicts. There must be a concrete process of what to do next after a cease-fire.
And if they really want to rebuild the country by all people contributing from both exile and internal movements, they must develop their political programmes first. And at the same time, they must release all political prisoners. They must have a working programme. They must show these concrete programmes first and then invite everyone to implement them. Only in this way, can this offer be useful and effective. I don’t think just calling for people to come back home can resolve these political issues.
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