New York: Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi, who was placed under house arrest for 15 years by military generals, says she could never "hate" them and has a "soft spot" for Burmese military men as she grew up feeling a part of the army family thanks to her father, founder of the country's army.
Suu Kyi said she was in an "unusual position" since she remembers the adulation her father Aung San received from army personnel and later was forced to spend her life in isolation by the same military.
"I grew up with the feeling that I was part of the army family," Suu Kyi told students at Columbia University in New York on Saturday.
She said while she does not remember her father much, who was assassinated when she was two, her first memories of him are through the pictures that hung in her house in Myanmar, formerly known as Burma, where he is dressed in military
She recalled that soldiers, who revered her parents as their father and mother, used to visit her home frequently. "Because of my father, I do have a soft spot for men in Burmese military uniform. I could never really hate the generals although I hated what they were doing," she said to a packed hall of students and faculty.
Suu Kyi's father founded the modern Burmese army and is considered to be the father of modern-day Burma, after having guided the country towards independence from British rule in 1948. He was assassinated in July 1947.
Responding to questions from students after her address to them, Suu Kyi said she would like to see better relations between the people of Myanmar and China.
She said while relations between governments of the two countries remain good, people to people relations have deteriorated mainly due to the presence of Chinese businesses in Myanmar.
People in Myanmar feel that Chinese businessmen living there do not care about their country and are living in Myanmar only for the sake of their profits.
"I would like to change this. I would like to see the reestablishment of friendly relations between the people," she said, adding that she wants the people of both countries to get to know each other not just as businessmen and clients but establish student-to-student and people-to-people contacts.
Suu Kyi said she likes to engage with young people from across the world to see how they can help the youth in Myanmar who have suffered from a poor education system and years of political unrest.
Myanmar's young people are its present and future and should be treated as treasures rather than a curse, she said, adding young people who are ill-educated, have poor health and are unemployed pose a danger to the country they live in.
"They will create unrest because there will be simmering resentment against the world which had produced them and failed to provide for them and failed to make them capable of providing for others," she said.