State Counsellor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi conducted a peace talk with local populace from Chaukkan Village in Pakokku Township, Magway Region, yesterday morning.
At the peace talk with the local populace, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi said talks and discussions on peace were being conducted all over the country, so that the people could understand that peace is the concern of the whole country. As Pakokku does not have any armed conflicts in the past, local populace wouldn’t understand what ceasefire is, the meaning of it and the effect on their lives. This is only understood by those who had experienced it. Whether there was armed conflict in their region or not, a country’s peace is of concern to all.
All have the duty to achieve peace. I want to know the views of everyone participating in this talk. What to do for peace and why peace is required. I want all of you to think together about these.
I also want to know what you think of the relation between peace and development in our country. The talk can also include other matters happening in your places. For example, where ever I go, I ask the people: is the chief minister behaving well? I think Magway Region Chief Minister is behaving well. But the people will know better. Our government is responsible to the people.
A government elected by the people is responsible towards the people. We strive to make the lives of the people the best. No government is blameless and there is no government that had never erred. We have a saying that there are no lawyers who hadn’t made any mistakes, and governments make more mistakes than the lawyers. The most important thing about a mistake is the ability to correct it. I always say that a problem is not important. The important thing is finding a solution to the problem.
In this talk, I want all to concentrate on why we don’t have peace since independence and how to resolve this, said the State Counsellor.
Ma Phyo Thiri Lwin (Third-year, Technological University)
Magway Region, in the middle of Myanmar, was peaceful for many years, so students and youths here generally are experiencing peace. From news media, they learn of how people in conflict areas are experiencing. But most only know about it and have a mindset of not being able to do anything about it. Youths and students in conflict areas are holding peace talks and listening to the voices of the people. How can youths and students in peaceful areas participate in this and for the country’s development? I think youths and students in peaceful areas need to start thinking about this.
The simplest view of why there is no peace is because there are misunderstandings, different views and thoughts. Whatever the organisation may be, be it a school or an office, leaders lead without followers following the leaders. There is a gap between the top and the bottom. There are many misunderstandings.
All need to think together on ways to change the mindset of the people and their attitude towards the country starting from a young age.
U Kyaw Naing (chairman of a bus line)
I want to discuss about peace in a family. The ward will be peaceful only if the families in it are peaceful. If the wards are peaceful, the township will be peaceful. If a person wants peace, there’ll be peace in the country.
A family will be peaceful if there is general work opportunities and income. There aren’t much job opportunities for 70 per cent of the youths who were unable to complete high school for various reasons. If vocational training schools are not opened in considerable numbers, the future for these youths will disappear.
If there is a drug addict in a family, the family will not be peaceful. As such, drugs need to be eliminated. Drugs come from border areas where there is no peace. Drugs can become arms and bullets, and there will be no peace in the country. What the nation’s President is doing is quite successful.
If a health of a family member is affected, there’ll be no peace or happiness. Pakokku hospital can be reached easily, but it is small. I heard that a hospital for women and children will be built. As the present hospital is too congested, this new hospital plan needs to be implemented.
Ma Yamon Phyo (First-year Master’s, Pakokku University)
Many ethnic nationals live together in our country. As such, there should be understanding among the ethnic nationals. With union spirit, and each ethnic national having a desire to protect their own people, peace can be easily achieved.
As many different ethnic nationals are living together, inequality breeds conflict and misunderstanding. Because of these differences, peace is far from being achieved. There is a requirement to coordinate and minimize the differences that breed misunderstanding among the people. Areas that are not peaceful are mostly border areas. Border areas are where trades are being conducted. No peace means no trade and no investments. Therefore, our country’s economy is declining. Thus, every region needs to strive towards peace. Peace concerns everyone, old and young. And all need to take part in peace. As there is peace, there’ll be development and all will benefit.
U Thet Khaing (farmer, Kaing Village)
I want to discuss about connection between peace and agriculture. During the days of our grandparents, Pakokku region was not peaceful. The effects of not having peace were felt directly. Despite having peace already, there are still indirect consequences of not having peace. Due to conflict in border areas, flow of goods stop and crop prices decline. Prices of consumer goods coming in from other places rise. As such, wherever a Myanmar citizen lives, be it in peaceful area or not, they will be soon affected.
All of us indiscriminately cut down our forests and use excessive insecticides and pesticides in our agriculture, and we all are now facing the consequences of it. More agriculture loans are required so that high interest loans from other sources need not be depended on. Agriculture machineries are being sold but most could not afford it. At this time,
draft animals are being exported, increasing the shortage of it in agriculture sector. The government should review its policy on this. Help is also needed to getting back confiscated lands.
Ma Ei Sabei Phyo (Second-year, Education College)
I want to talk about education and peace. It is important for all in the country to live in peace. All need to strive together in unity for peace. But peace is easier said than done.
Every youngster, including those in the border areas, need to have access to peaceful education. If there is armed conflict, the youngsters in the region are unable to have good education. The consequence is not acquiring the ability to live together, have understanding of others and to think effectively. This will make peace an unreachable faraway goal.
Peace could not be achieved by talking about it only. Talks must be conducted with ethnic nationals on how to achieve peace by choosing the correct path.
U Myint Win (trader)
I will talk about peace and business. Now is the time when all should work peacefully in their respective regions. Our region is a peaceful region. The main business in our region is agriculture. But our farms rely on rain water and when there is no rain, we face losses. Another thing is, we rely on traditional agriculture methods so our outputs are declining, affecting our economy. Pakokku Town is also expanding and taking over the farmlands, reducing the agriculture lands and thus reducing income.
North of our village is garment factory No. 11. There are many workers in that factory. But if the factory does not run anymore, many will be out of work. Thus, arrangements need to be made to ensure the long-term survival of the factories.
Ma Khaing Thazin Aung (First-year Master’s, Pakokku University)
Peace means others coming to have meals with me. It means I go to their place and drink their water. Visiting one another’s places and exchanging different views and culture. This interdependence is what peace is. Myanmar is a country of not a single race but of many ethnic nationals living together. This makes Myanmar, and all need to be united and be together. Lack of peace affects the people directly. Without peace, children could not attend school and had to flee into the jungles. Some become orphans.
Maung Zeya Min (Second-year, Technological University)
I want to discuss about my views of the essence of peace. Peace is to be established together, based on family spirit.
Education is basic for a person’s dignity. All need to know this. Most of us think that being a graduate makes a person a learned person. But most graduates are not learned persons. There are only a handful of graduates who become experts and support the country. As such, we must strive towards becoming a person benefiting the country, rather than just becoming a graduate.
Response of State Counsellor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi
I noticed one of you saying followers not following a leader is a problem. But the leader needs to be right. And another thing is choosing the right leader. Democracy is a system where you have the right to choose your own leader.
If the people are qualified, it is very difficult for an unqualified government to come into power. The better the people are, the better the government will be. It is important for the people to be courageous and dignified in standing firm on what they believe.
We are in politics with a view towards the future. To view towards the future, we need to look truthfully at the present. We need to look at the present problems and challenges we are facing.
We must not go back to the past and become prisoners of the past. But looking at the future without doing the present work, or concentrating on the future only is not possible. If all work together on what need to be done now, peace will be achieved. One said there was no peace because there was a lack of understanding. Understanding is based on respect to others. Only with respect can a person listen. A person will listen to someone they respect. They wouldn’t listen to someone they don’t respect. This is human nature.
I want our people to believe in themselves. With a view towards a future, we are emphasizing on the present education and health. Because from the physical side we need health and from the mental side education, including character. We are striving towards development, based on these two. When subjects to learn are based on examination scores, both parents and the students go for honor rather than genuine interest in the subject. They learn it not because they are interested in it.
We need to discard anything that effects peace. And we need to encourage anything that will bring about peace. In this, the people need to participate. We are changing the education system. We are not setting levels by points achieved at an examination anymore, and instead using a grading system. We are encouraging vocational education instead of a university education. Education is to have a secure and good life. This is not something that can be achieved only through a university education. There are many who have a secure and good life without a university education. Our country needs a lot of people with vocational education. For a country to catch up other countries quickly, the education they have need to be in line for the development of the country.
We are striving towards giving true and complete opportunities to all. Through this, we believe that stability, a foundation for peace will be laid. If the people are mentally and physically safe, the country will also be safe. Unity is important. Especially if people and organisations in the peace process truly have goodwill towards the country, there will be peace. Even a region like Pakokku, that had peace for some time, is not as developed as it should be. This is because the entire country is also not developed. If the entire country is not developed, it would be difficult to have development in a single region.
If elderly people like me can live on hope, why can’t others do the same? But hope alone is not all, as we need to have the ability to work and implement. We also need the skills. I value what the youths have told me. Although they may not have the same view, they are expected to work towards peace single-mindedly.
I encourage vocational education. Parents must not be reluctant in giving vocational education to their child. Some think vocational education is a second-rank education. Rich countries of the world, like Switzerland, Germany and Sweden, do not differentiate students attending vocational education and university education. Those who finish vocational education have higher possibility of income and thus it is a dignified education.
When I was in Switzerland, I asked four students attending a vocational school whether they were treated differently. They were quite surprised that I asked them this.
When I ask officials from their education ministry, they say students who completed vocational training are respected by the community, as they have better income than university graduates. We will do the best we can in this.
Drug abuse is a real problem. In the past, opium and opium products were dangers. Now it’s ecstasy pills. Children at a very young age are starting to use it. The rate of usage is also increasing. Parents need to have the ability to judge whether their children are using these pills. Once the parents know, parents also need to have the ability for their children to admit this problem and solve it together with understanding.
Our union has many ethnic nationals. Most are living in conflict regions in border areas, which is affecting the economy. The economy of the country as well as the relation with other countries.
I understand that our people are precious. All need to consider themselves and others as precious. It is important to instill this in everyone. Education will develop only when the country is rich. This two is linked. Development in education can also make a country rich. But we could not wait until we are rich to reform the education system. We have to do it the best we can.
Our country is an agricultural country. For the country to develop, agriculture is important. Developing agriculture is not making the agriculture sector disappear. Exporting draft animals may be a problem for the farmers. But it is done to prevent illegal export of draft animals. We will have to reduce our reliance on draft animals, and at the same time create situation where farmers can use farm machineries.
To return land to the rightful owner is also facing many problems. People who confiscated the land do not want to return it. Even when there is an agreement to return it, departments were not doing the work of returning it back properly. Of course not everyone who applies to have the land back are rightful owners. There are those who applied even though they have no right to the land. So rightful owners have more problems to solve. To overcome these problems, all need to be truthful.
I want to ask a question to the one who is trying to become a teacher. This is a question asked by a senior teacher. The question was what a teacher needs to know to teach a student.
What the teacher needs to know is the student. Not the teacher’s ability. Not the knowledge of the subject. Only when the teacher knows the student can the teacher teach the student.
Now we are reforming the education system. We are not encouraging rote learning. But to a certain level, examination marks are depending on rote learning. A smart student can memorize things quickly. Someone who is less smart would need more time, but the less smart one may be better in social dealing. This one resolves problems among their friends. It is important for the teacher to know the students’ ability. Expansion of towns could not be blamed for reducing agriculture area. Farm land could not be used for other matters easily. High rise buildings couldn’t be built on a farm land. But some see fault in this. Why can’t farmers sell their lands for a hefty income? They can’t because our country is an agriculture country.
These laws were put in place because rice is the main staple for our people. Of course, laws need to be changed in order to be in accord with the times. Towns could not be prevented from expanding. This is the outcome of development. There are benefits as well as drawbacks.
One said children and women suffer when there is no peace. I agree with this. Everyone said if there is no peace the most who suffer are women and children. That is why women need to participate deeply in the peace process. Women need to have the courage to ask the men why they want to make things that increase suffering. If peace is really desired, it can be achieved within a short time.
Most teachers didn’t experience a good education system. To establish a good education system, the qualities of the teachers need to be raised. We could not concentrate on the students only. We also need to look at the teachers. Raising the quality of the teachers is not an easy matter.
A while ago I went to Petaw Village. The primary school there is a bit special. Unique because of the five teachers there, three were men and two were women. This is quite special because most schools have more women teachers than men. There are many that only have women teachers. I’m more impressed with the students there who are not shy or afraid. When asked what they know, they answer with full confidence. This is the most important thing.
The will to know and understand things is important in getting an education. If a child has a strong desire to know and understand things, they’ll get the education. From their surroundings, a lot of knowledge can be obtained. Anyone who can learn something outside a classroom becomes an educated person. A person is not an educated person if they knew only things that are taught to them in a classroom. Thanks to everyone for participating in this discussion, said the State Counsellor.
Afterwards, Union Minister for Health and Sports Dr. Myint Htwe, Magway Region minister for agriculture and irrigation U Win Maw Htay spoke about health and agriculture sector in Magway Region. Other officials, including Magway Region Chief Minister Dr. Aung Moe Nyo, and the State Counsellor also explained further about topics raised by the people participating in the talk.
Finally, the State Counsellor replied to three questions raised online. She urged all desiring peace to speak out and have their voices heard by related people in response to a question raised by Min Ya Tha. She also added that she didn’t consider holding these peace talks as making her tired, because the talks allow her to engage with the people and through this, the people also support her work.
Responding to a question by Kyaw Zaw Aung, State Counsellor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi said, “It is a good suggestion to make the ministers engage more in states and regions to reduce my work load. But I don’t want my work to be more overloaded for any wrong engagement by the ministers. If the people desire this sort of talks with the ministers, I will arrange for them to have talks and discussions with the people in their respective sectors.”
Replying to a question by Kyaw Nyein Thant, the State Counsellor said, “When I work, I not only plan but do the work as well. Mobile libraries of Daw Khin Kyi Foundation had spread to the whole country. This was started in my Kawhmu constituency. All the books were rented out on the first day. This shows that people are interested to read, and they are unable to read only because they don’t have any books available. Now there are mobile libraries by Daw Khin Kyi Foundation all over the country. In future, the Ministry of Information and the Ministry of Education will cooperate in making mobile libraries available in towns and schools.”
“The habit of reading needs to be instilled in the youths. Parents need not only to encourage but help their children practically in this,” she added.
Union Ministers, Magway Region Chief Minister, region Hluttaw Speaker, Deputy Speaker, Chief Justice of the High Court, Region Auditor General, Advocate General of the region, regional ministers, Hluttaw representatives, local populace and members of social organisations attended the peace talk.
Peace talks were held five times in 2017. In 2018, it was held in Myaungmya Township Basic Education High School No. 1, Ayeyawady Region, on 10 April, and at Mawlamyine University, Mon State, on 14 June. This peace talk is the third one held this year.