Burma's democratic movement hoping to learn from experience of Czech Republic

07-09-2004

Burma's prime minister in exile, Sein Win, is on a visit in Prague, his third trip to the Czech Republic. He was first here a few years ago when his fellow dissident Nobel Prize Winner Aung San Suu Kyi received a special prize from the Charles University. Now he is continuing in his battle to return democracy to Burma. As well as meeting Czech politicians he also gave a lecture at the Charles University.

Burma's Prime minister in exile Sein Win with Foreign Minister Cyril Svoboda, photo: CTKBurma's Prime minister in exile Sein Win with Foreign Minister Cyril Svoboda, photo: CTK Ever since a coup in 1962, Burma has been governed by a military Junta. Sein Win was democratically elected in 1990, when the first elections since the coup were held. But the junta disliked the election results and started to arrest the winners. Those elected representatives who avoided imprisonment later formed an opposition government outside the country, and Sein Win currently lives in Washington D.C. Politically active Burmese MPs set up an exile body that is striving to restore democracy in Burma. They elected its government, and chose Sein Win as their prime minister.

According to Sein Win even a small country like the Czech Republic can do a lot to help Burma's democracy.

"It can help in the UN context; it can help in the EU context. Its voice as a member of the EU is very much needed. The Czech Republic can perhaps also share its experience of how the transition took place."

Even though the Czech Republic is a very different country from Burma, some of its historical experience might be very useful.

"Czech people lived under totalitarian regimes and know what freedom is. If you take a country which has had liberty for long years, they can not really appreciate our situation."

'People In Need' is a Czech humanitarian organization that is involved in helping Burma's democracy. Igor Blazevic explains what they do.

"We are trying to raise the public attention in the Czech Republic about the situation in Burma, and we try to lobby in Parliament and the Foreign Ministry to persuade the Czech officials that they have an extraordinary opportunity to be the champion of Burma's democratic movement internationally, particularly through the institutions of the European Union."

Igor Blazevic sees quite a few similarities in the development of Burma and the Czech Republic, and thus believes it's the Czech Republic's moral duty to help.

"Almost in the same year - the Czech Republic in 1989, in Burma in 1988 - the majority of population has demonstrated and asked for freedom and democracy. The Czech Republic has gone a long way in the direction of the democracy and market economy, and is becoming enormously prosperous state. The democratic movement in Burma has been shot down in cold blood and the country has been living in fear and poverty. Because of that the Czech Republic has the legitimacy and extraordinary opportunity to be the leader among the new EU states as a country promoting the democratic movement in Burma."

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