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Sabe Soe: Mr Havel, we thank you

Prague, 19.12.2011 19:02, (ROMEA)
Sabe Soe

I first saw Mr Václav Havel at Letná in Prague during November 1989, from a great distance. The crowd listening to Mr Havel and shaking their bunches of keys reminded me of the people in Burma who were similarly expressing their wishes for democratic change in their country. The Velvet Revolution played itself out in the Czech lands one year after the national uprising of the Burmese people had been so bloodily suppressed by the army there. I was, therefore, very skeptical about whether unarmed people could prevail in such a conflict and I observed the actual events in Prague from a distance.

The development of the Velvet Revolution, however, surprised me very pleasantly and gave me great hope that simple people can change regimes without paying the price for that change in their own blood. Mr President definitely did not suspect that he was giving me, a young student from Burma who was disappointed by the history of her own land, a great deal of courage and inspiration to continue believing in human freedom and striving for it.

Mr Václav Havel was engaged from the very beginning in advocating for democracy and human rights in Burma. He nominated Aung San Suu Kyi for the Nobel Peace Prize and harshly criticized the military regime in Burma at every important international event. Even before we founded Burma Center Prague, as well as afterward, I had the honor to meet with the president personally more than once. Every time I thanked him for his great support for Burma, he always shook my hand with a smile and gave us the courage to continue the nonviolent fight for freedom.

We are truly grateful for the kind support of the president. Whenever he had the opportunity, he supported our organization's work. His message to the 2009 Prague conference on "Burmese in Europe: Promoting Partnership for Transition in Burma" directly reached Burmese participants from all over the world. He also helped us draw attention to the famine in the northwest part of Burma.

Personally, I will always regret immeasurably that the president will now never meet Aung San Suu Kyi in person. When she celebrated her 60th birthday, the president wrote a beautiful article entitled "A Rose for the 'Unfree' " in the Washington Post. In that article, he described his "silly idea" of wanting to give her a rose - in freedom. Unfortunately, that will never be.

That rose, however, will continue to blossom in our hearts and in the hearts of all of the Burmese people who have been inspired by Mr Václav Havel. Mr President, we thank you.

Gwendolyn Albert, Sabe Soe, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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