Current Affairs Burmese opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi to visit Prague in September
Burmese opposition leader and Nobel Peace Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi will visit Prague in mid-September, where she has accepted an invitation to address Forum 2000, a conference bringing together leading world thinkers and freedom fighters in support of democracy and civil society. Forum 2,000, established by the late Czech president Vaclav Havel, consistently invited the Burmese dissident leader to its meetings as a show of support in the years when she was under house arrest and did what it could to highlight her fight for democracy. Forum 2,000 director Jakub Klepal says he is delighted to finally be able to welcome her at the conference in person.
“We are extremely happy that the situation in Burma has developed in a way that makes it possible for San Suu Kyi and other former political prisoners to travel abroad and to engage freely in the political contest of the country. For Forum 2,000 it is a very symbolic visit because we have been following the case of San Suu Kyi and the case of Burma for a long time now. President Havel, the founder of Forum 2,000, was a huge supporter of her efforts and he was actually the one who nominated her for the Nobel Peace Prize. For a long time we tried to see if it would be possible for her to come to Prague, so we see this as a symbolic moment for her, for us and for both countries which have a common history of authoritarian regimes in the past and are now both hopefully on the road to democracy.”
The late president would obviously be extremely pleased that this has come about. I understand that the two of them never met and he even considered visiting her in disguise when she was under house arrest in Burma, is that right?
“Yes, that’s right. It emerged as a joke, this crazy idea that he had at one point but he abandoned it very quickly because he realized how difficult it would be and how complicated it might be for her. But, yes, as I said, he closely followed her case and her life, he was in touch with her, he wrote her letters and she was inspired by him –so it was a long-distance friendship, I would say.”
The theme of this year’s conference –Societies in Transition – is highly topical. Who are your other VIP guests?
“We have a very good line-up for this year’s conference. Apart from San Suu Kyi, His Holiness the Dalai Lama will attend, he is a long-term friend and supporter of Forum 2,000, former South African president Frederik Willem de Klerk will also attend, as will a number of activists, dissidents and former political prisoners from around the world – from the former Soviet Union, Cuba, Burma – so we have a great conference coming up and are very much looking forward to it.”