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Aung San Suu Kyi's speech at Nehru

Subject: Aung San Suu Kyi's speech at Nehru Prize

Address on the Occasion of the Presentation of the 1993 Nehru Memorial 
Prize for 
International Understanding
Mr. President, Mr. Vice President, Mr. Prime Minister, Members of the 
Nehru Award 
Committee, Your Excellencies, Distinguished Guests and Dear Friends,
This is a occasion for mixed emotions. there are strong ties of 
friendship and shared 
political ideals that bind me to so many people in India. I do not 
remember a time when I 
did not know about India and Panditji as we always referred to Pandit 
Nehru in our 
family. To be awarded a prize for international understanding established 
in his memory is 
a matter of pride and joy for me.
On the other hand I am well aware that the prize comes to me not as an 
individual but as a 
representative of the democracy movement in Burma. And that fills me with 
a sense of 
humility and gratitude, as is always the case when I am chosen to be the 
recipient of 
honours that are awarded to those who have rendered outstanding service 
to the cause of 
human dignity the world over. In my own country there are large numbers 
of men and 
women who do not enjoy the protection of international recognition, daily 
risking their 
well-being, their liberty and even their lives for the sake of principles 
and rights that will 
guarantee our people a secure and dignified existence. I am thankful for 
the opportunity to 
draw attention to the struggles of these brave men and women and to 
accept, in all 
humility, the Nehru Memorial Prize for International Understanding in 
their names.
It is as much the desire to pay tribute to those who have sacrificed so 
much in pursuit of a 
free and democratic Burma, as to re-establish and strengthen my ties with 
India that I so 
much wish circumstances could have allowed me to receive this honour in 
person today. 
However, as that family, friend and honorary aunt, Daw Than E. She has 
lived and 
worked in India for many years and as the first Burmese to become a 
member of the 
United Nations Secretariat, she has been an ardent advocate and a 
practitioner of 
international understanding. I know that she will accept the prize on my 
behalf with all the 
grace and dignity the occasion merits.
Pandit Nehrus contribution to international understanding go beyond the 
part he played 
on the world stage during his lifetime to narrow the gap between diverse 
cultures and 
differing ideologies. His spirit continues to reach out to people 
struggling to establish 
universal human values in a word increasingly preoccupied with material 
During my years o detention the word and worked of Mahatma Gandhi and 
Pandit Nehru 
were a constant source of inspiration and support. I count these two 
great Indians among 
my most revered guides, mentors and friends. Throughput the six years 
that I was cut off 
from the world outside, I had hanging in the front hall of my house a 
scroll on which I had 
copied extracts from Pandit Nehrus immortal words on discipline, law and 
order. These 
words, to be found in my autobiography, made such  profound impression on 
me I would 
like to quote the passage in its entirely:
        Law and Order, we are told, are among the proud achievements of 
British role in 
India. My own instincts are entirely in favour of them. I like discipline 
in life, and dislike 
anarchy and disorder and inefficiency. But bitter experience has made me 
doubt the value 
of the law and order that states and governments impose on a people. 
Sometimes the price 
one pays for them is excessive, and the law is but the will of the 
dominant faction and the 
order is the reflex of an all-pervading fear. Sometimes, indeed, the 
so-called law and order 
might be more justly called the absence of law and order. Any achievement 
that is based 
on widespread fear can hardly be a desirable one, and an order that has 
for its basis the 
coercive apparatus of the State, and cannot exist without it; is more 
like a military 
occupation than civil rule. I find in the Rajatarangiri, the 
thousand-year-old Kashmiri 
historic epic of the poet Kalhana, that the phrase which is repeatedly 
used in the sense of 
law and order, something that it was the duty of the ruler and the state 
to preserve is 
dharma and abbaya- righteousness and absence of fear. Law was something 
more than 
mere law, and order was the fearlessness of the people. How much more 
desirable is this 
idea of inculcating fearlessness than of enforcing order on a frightened 
        The sentiments expressed by Pandit Nehru in the above passage are 
exactly my on. 
Often I have felt that we shared much in common and regrettednot having 
taken the 
opportunity to get to know him better during the year I was in India with 
my mother. At 
that time I looked upon him simply as a friend of my parents and never 
imagined I would 
one day come to look upon him as my own friend.
        Pandit Nehru often broke through the barriers of race and 
generation by his warm 
humanity. On his way to London for talks on independence for Burma, my 
father made a 
stop in Delhi to have talks with Pandit Nehru and other Indian leaders. 
immediately showed a fatherly concern for my father, twenty-six years his 
junior. He cast  
a critical but kindly eye over the younger mans shabby, thin cotton 
uniform and decided it 
would not do. He arranged for several smart, warm woollen uniforms to be 
run up hastily 
by his tailors. Hearing that England was suffering from one of the 
coldest winters in living 
memory, Panditji also commandeered a greatcoat: a well-known photograph 
of my father 
shows him looking somewhat swamped in this greatcoat which is rather too 
large for him.
        When my mother was appointed Burmese ambassador to India in 1960, 
Nehru cast over her the warm protection of his friendship, always making 
a point of 
singling her out at public occasions to enquire after her well-being. It 
was with such 
gestures of human warmth that Pandit Nehru won the hearts of peoples of 
all races and 
creeds. And his intellect and integrity won him the respect even o those 
who did not share 
his commitment to democracy and internationalism.
        For us who believe that a democratic political system offers the 
best solutions to 
the myriad problems that beset our imperfect world, the achievement  of 
Pandit Nehru and 
India provide strong encouragement. This sub-continent of many races, 
languages and 
creeds; this nation that stepped forward proudly to keep its tryst with 
destiny only months 
after its  fabric had been rent by horrifying communal strife; this great 
republic that has had 
to meet time and time again the challenges of poverty, extremism and 
violence; this, the 
largest democracy in the world, is proof supreme that there is no problem 
beyond the 
control of a system that respects the inherent dignity of man and honours 
him as a being fit 
for freedom and self-rule. It is the heartfelt hope of the vast majority 
of the people of 
Burma that our country too, on a day not far away, will become a 
democratic nation 
guided by the will of the people and ruled by dharma and abbaya.
        India and Burma share more than a common frontier. Buddhism which 
is the 
backbone of Burmese culture sprang from India soil. The tolerance, loving 
compassion and self-control that Buddhism teaches are qualities that are 
invaluable in a 
world made smaller but more complex and potentially very dangerous by the 
technological advances of our age. More than ever there is a need to 
recognise that all 
peoples are bound by a common humanity, to cultivate those traits that 
help us to 
understand one another better. More than ever there is need for 
magnificent beings like 
Mahattama Gandhi and Pandit Nehru who could reach out t win alien hearts 
with their 
breadth of vision.
        India today continues in the tradition of its great leaders. it 
is indeed an honour to 
have been chosen to receive a prize for international understanding from 
this nation that is 
so close to my heart.
        Mr. President and members of the Nehru Award Committee, may I 
thank you for 
the honour you have done my country, my people and myself.
Thank you.