Czech’s back Suu Kyi on sanctions

The Czech Republic has offered its support to Burma’s pro-democracy movement and said that opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi’s stance on maintaining Western sanctions is the correct one.

In a telephone conversation with the Nobel laureate yesterday, Czech foreign minister Karel Schwarzenberg said the two discussed comparisons between Burma and the dictatorship that ruled the former Czechoslovakia until 1993.

“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 said of Suu Kyi following the talk.

He added that fellow foreign ministers should develop closer contact with Suu Kyi in order that she has “the chance to communicate her opinions directly”. The 65-year-old has been outspoken about the need for the West to maintain its economic embargo on Burma, despite assertions from the anti-sanctions lobby that it is having little effect on the ruling generals.

Schwarzenberg reportedly said that EU sanctions should remain in place “until it is clear how the new government will interact with all the stakeholders in Burma”, according to a statement released by the Czech foreign ministry.

In April last year the Czech Republic became the third country to back a UN Commission of Inquiry into whether war crimes and crimes against humanity have been committed in Burma. It has also been a key provider of aid for humanitarian disasters in Burma.

Vaclav Havel, the last president of Czechoslovakia, who is widely credited with bringing to a close the country’s lengthy dictatorship, is a vocal supporter of Suu Kyi.

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