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Czechs reiterate support for democracy in Burma

Foreign affairs minister Karel Schwarzenberg spoke with Burmese opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi by telephone yesterday, and assured her that the Czech Republic continues to support her battle for democracy in Burma.

Vaclav Havel and foreign minister Karel Schwarzenberg at Burma conference in Prague (Photo: Mark Farmaner / Burma Campaign UK)

South-east Asian portal The Irrawaddy cites Schwarzenberg as saying “It was a great honor and privilege for me to have an opportunity to talk with her. She is one of the biggest heroes of our time”. “I respect and admire her stand and the example she is giving to us, an example of someone who is making so many personal sacrifices for the sake of her people,” he added.

Suu Kyi was released on 13 November last year after spending more than seven years under house arrest. She has spent a total of 15 years years in detention since she was first arrested by the Burmese junta in 1989.

“She [Suu Kyi] needs to get the chance to communicate her opinions directly and I will further encourage my colleagues and fellow foreign ministers to be in direct contact with her,” said Schwarzenberg.

“Having our own Czechoslovak 40-year-long experience with an undemocratic regime, we understand how important it is to have such brave people who dare to speak out,” he added.

The Czech foreign minister also shared with Suu Kyi the Czech government’s reading of the current situation in Burma, including the Czech position that EU sanctions on the Burmese regime should stay in place until it is clear how the new government will interact with all stakeholders in the country.

The Czech Republic is a leading EU supporter of the Burmese democracy movement. At a recent  activist conference in Prague, Schwarzenberg and former Czech President Václav Havel delivered opening remarks.

Zoya Phan, the international coordinator for the London-based Burma Campaign UK and an attendee at the Prague conference, said that the Czech Republic’s policy on Burma is very much appreciated.

She said she hoped the Prague conference would help the debate over an EU common position on sanctions, which will be under discussion in April when it comes up for its annual renewal. Source: The Irrawaddy

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