The Czech prime minister Mirek Topolánek added his support this week to calls to ban the far-right Workers Party, following the worst violence in the country for eight years. The clashes erupted in the town of Litvínov on Monday, when some 600 neo-Nazi skinheads tried to march on a housing estate inhabited by members of the Roma minority. But the sight of local people cheering on the skinheads and urging the police to let them attack their Romani neighbours has led some to warn of a looming ethnic conflict.
The Czech government has suspended the issuing of long-term visas for Vietnamese nationals. The reason? The application process in Hanoi seems to be controlled by criminal gangs. What’s more, this move comes just days after a new report suggested Vietnamese citizens here in the Czech Republic were increasingly involved in organised crime.
On Monday the Czech Republic witnessed some of its worst street violence in recent memory when hundreds of right-wing extremists in the north Bohemian town of Litvínov clashed with Czech police. In the incident, Neo-Nazis veered away from a planned march and attempted to attack a nearby Roma suburb, highlighting long-growing tensions between the local Roma and non-Roma community. The battle lasted some three hours and led to several arrests and more than a dozen injuries.
The Czech government has ordered the Czech embassy in Hanoi to suspend the process of issuing visas to all Vietnamese applicants until further notice. The move comes in reaction to the rise in organized crime among the Vietnamese community in the Czech Republic. Interior Minister Ivan Langer told Czech public television that concrete measures must be taken in order to protect the Czech Republic from mafia practices and criminal activities. The Czech-Vietnamese Society has protested against the blanket measure, saying that only a fraction of the Vietnamese community in the Czech Republic is involved in organized crime.
Neo-Nazis clashed with police in the town of Litvínov on Monday as officers moved in to prevent a 500-strong protest march from reaching Janov, a part of town that is home to a strong Romany minority. Cobblestones, bottles and other objects flew through the air as the police fought to get the situation under control with water canon, tear gas and the sheer number of 1,000 men. Several people are reported injured and a police car was set on fire. The event was organized by the ultra-right Workers Party and the strong gathering was clearly intended as show of strength aimed against the Romany minority. In the Romany quarter some three hundred men gathered to defend their turf, many of them armed with sticks and knives. The police had received strict orders to prevent the two sides from coming into contact.
The Czech Republic has dropped down the World Economic Forum’s rankings for gender equality. This year, the Czech Republic was ranked 69th in the list of 130 countries assessed. In 2007, Czechs ranked 64th. It was Nordic countries which this year topped the list, with Norway ranking first in terms of gender equality, Finland coming second, followed by Sweden and Iceland. A spokesperson from the Czech Women’s Lobby said that she did not see the situation in this country getting worse, but nor did she see it getting better. Countries were assessed on four criteria: women in the workplace, education, politics and the health care system.
The association of Muslims living in the Czech Republic is preparing to file a lawsuit in connection with the screening of the controversial film Fitna at a neo-Nazi gathering in the centre of Prague on Tuesday. The film by the ultra-right Dutch MP Geert Wilders is a denunciation of Islam as a fundamentalist religion that incites violence against other cultures. Tuesday’s gathering in the city centre was organized by the ultra-right National Party and was eventually dissolved by the police on the grounds of its racist and xenophobic content. Thirteen people were detained for questioning. The association of Czech Muslims said it would ask the Interior Ministry to review the party’s registration on the grounds that its statutes alone are in violation of the law.
A demonstration by members of the far-right Workers Party has led to 13 arrests, according to Czech police. The demonstration took place in the centre of Prague, and reports suggest that members were immediately checked by police, with the 13 arrests made as a result of weapons possession charges. The demonstration was to mark a “day of unity” among members of the party.
Deputy PM and Regional Development Minister Jiří Čunek told reporters on Friday that up to 14 billion crowns, or more than 700 million US dollars, of government’s money should be used to improve Romany housing conditions within the next 15 years. The funds should be used within a broader scheme designed by Mr Čunek and his team to tackle the issue of deteriorating Romany living conditions in the country, and to “bring the Roma to a normal way of life”. The scheme, which was presented earlier this year, was criticized by some Romany organizations for planning to divide the Roma into three groups according to their social status.
In the wake of demonstrations by the far-right in the town of Litvínov, an umbrella organisation for Romany associations says Romanies should form self-defence groups. In a statement, Romani Alliance criticised the police for not intervening last Saturday when between three and four hundred neo-Nazis marched on a part of Litvínov with a big Romany population. Police say they reacted in an adequate fashion. Romani Alliance said Romanies should not rely on a failed state apparatus but should prepare themselves to deal with any attack. Meanwhile, TV Nova reported that the far-right activists had threatened to demonstrate again if the local town hall did not deal with the so-called Romany question by the end of the month.
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