Update at 2:45pm: personal message from Aung San Suu Kyi
Aung San Suu Kyi delivered the following message of condolence on the passing of Mr. Václav Havel:
“This is not only a loss for one person or one country, it is a great loss for humankind. I can’t find the words to express my sorrow in a short message.”
She also said that she would write an article dedicated to and honoring Mr. Havel, that would be published in the Japanese newspaper The Mainichi Daily News next month.
The message was conveyed to Burma Center Prague through her assistant Htin Kyaw in Burma.
PRAGUE, December 23, 2011. On the occasion of today’s state funeral of the former Czech president Václav Havel, representatives of the people of Burma express their deep sorrow at his passing and gratitude for his support. Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi, leader of the Burmese democratic opposition and Nobel Peace Prize laureate, paid her respects by sending a bouquet of roses, and by this she referred to a famous quote from Mr. Havel.
“Mr. Havel was a long-term supporter of Suu Kyi and of the pro-democracy movement in Burma, and his influence helped bring greater awareness of the Burmese issue in Europe and around the world”, says Sabe Soe, director of the Czech NGO Burma Center Prague. Together with other Burmese pro-democracy activists and former political prisoners, Ms. Soe conveys the message of grief from the people of Burma and their leader Aung San Suu Kyi. On Monday, Suu Kyi expressed her sadness at Havel’s passing when she arrived for a meeting at the party headquarters of the National League for Democracy in Rangoon.
On Tuesday, members of Burma Center Prague, along with Burmese activists and former Czech ambassador to Burma H.E. Jiří Šitler, formed a delegation to represent Aung San Suu Kyi as Václav Havel’s body lay in repose at The Prague Crossroads, the former St. Anne’s church turned into a cultural and spiritual center by the late president.
Tin Tin Nyo, General Secretary of Women’s League of Burma, lay a bouquet of roses with a ribbon that said “To a True Friend – Aung San Suu Kyi”, while Aung Myo Min, Director of Human Rights Education Institute of Burma and Sabe Soe lay a basket of flowers with “We Thank You – People of Burma”. Sabe Soe and Aung Myo Min then paid their respects at Mr. Havel’s coffin, while H.E. Mr. Šitler and Ko Bo Kyi, Joint Secretary of the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners in Burma, stood as the honour guard.
Suu Kyi has always considered Václav Havel to be a close friend and supporter, although the two were never able to meet in person. Havel nominated Aung San Suu Kyi for the Nobel Peace Prize in 1991. When she celebrated her 60th birthday while still under house arrest, Havel wrote an article entitled “A Rose for the ‘Unfree'” in the Washington Post. In that article, he expressed his wish to personally give her a rose after she gained freedom. In the end, it was Aung San Suu Kyi who presented roses to him, although not in person.
The Burma Center Prague offers royalty-free photos and a video for reporting on this topic that can be downloaded at: http://dl.dropbox.com/u/2146694/photos-press-release-23.12.2011.zip and at http://dl.dropbox.com/u/2146694/Havel-copyright-Burma-Center-Prague-2011.mov
Please credit these photos and the video to “Burma Center Prague”.
With deep sorrow, Burma Center Prague today received news of the passing of Mr. Vaclav Havel, a key figure not only for the history of the Czech Republic, but also for the international community and in particular for the Burmese democratic movement.
Today, Burma Center Prague received many phone calls and e-mails from partner organizations and friends from around the world who were affected by this sad news. Members of Burma Center Prague, along with other Burmese, hereby express their sincere condolences to Mr. Havel’s bereaved wife and his close colleagues.
Mr. Havel consistently and significantly supported democratic efforts in Burma. He nominated Burmese opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi for the Nobel Peace Prize, sharply criticized the practices of the military regime, and steadfastly called for respect for human rights and peace and democracy in the country, which is controlled by a totalitarian regime, as was the former Czechoslovakia.
“Mr. Havel was a great symbol of the non-violent struggle for democracy and was always admired by the Burmese. Thanks to him, awareness of Burma was significantly increased in the Czech Republic not only among Czech politicians but also among citizens. We are greatly appreciative Mr. Havel’s efforts to always put human rights, individual freedom and democracy ahead of economic interests. We are extremely sad that Mr. Havel is no longer with us, but we hope and believe in the global responsibility of democratic states and we are very grateful for the solidarity of Czech citizens, who can better understand the situation in Burma thanks to their own memories of the past under a totalitarian regime, ” said BCP’s director Sabe Soe, who herself comes from Burma and experienced the successful Velvet Revolution in the Czech Republic, while in her home country a popular uprising was bloodily suppressed by the military. “I am very sad that Mr. Havel will never meet Ms. Suu Kyi and personally give her a rose, as he wanted to do,” added Ms. Soe.