Prague, Czech Republic – This week, Myanmar’s state councilor Aung San Suu Kyi was on an official three-day visit in Prague to strengthen bilateral relations with the Czech Republic.
Trade and economy dominate Czech-Burmese bilateral talks
Economic cooperation and bilateral trade largely dominated the three-day talks, with Suu Kyi promoting Myanmar as “the last frontier” in the region and an attractive market for foreigner investors, while the Czech delegation focused on the opportunities for Czech businesses in the booming ASEAN economy.
Talking at the Czech-Burmese economic forum, Industry and Trade Minister Karel Havlíček suggested both him and Czech Prime Minister could visit Myanmar some time this fall to further strengthen ties between the two countries.
During the business forum, Czech Prime minister Andrej Babis praised the increasing trade relations between Myanmar and the Czech Republic, which reached 73 million euros last year, while Czech exports to the Asian market increased by 66% in one year, according to Babis. The Czech Prime Minister also highlighted the numerous investment and business opportunities in the South-East Asian country, as well as Suu Kyi’s role in Myanmar’s “democratic changes” that were instrumental in opening up its economy to the rest of the world after decades of isolation.
The two leaders also talked about boosting bilateral ties and cooperation in the fields of education and health.
During her stay in the Czech Republic, Myanmar’s de-facto leader and former dissident also met with Czech President Milos Zeman at the Prague Castle, according to a lapidary presidential press release.
Aung San Suu Kyi in Prague to re-open Myanmar’s embassy
Twenty six years after the Burmese embassy in Prague closed down, Aung San Suu Kyi attended the official re-opening of her country’s diplomatic representation in the Czech capital. “I am here especially in order to reopen our embassy in Prague. This is a sign that our relationship with the Czech Republic is getting closer”, she said.
According to the Myanmar Post, the Burmese Foreign Affairs Ministry appointed Kay Thi Soe as Myanmar’s new ambassador to the Czech Republic, the fifth woman to hold this post since 1960 (the late mother of Aung San Suu Kyi, the country’s former envoy to India, was the first Burmese woman to be named as ambassador decades ago).
Less than 30 nationals from Myanmar were officially registered as living in the Czech Republic in 2018, according to the Czech statistical office.
After closing down in the early 1990’s as well, the Czech embassy in Myanmar re-opened in 2014.
Human rights remain in the background
Last time Suu Kyi visited Prague dates back to 2013, when she attended the Forum 2000 Conference, founded by former Czech dissident and president Vaclav Havel. Havel and Suu Kyi, although having never met in real life, were considered as close friends and regularly corresponded, including when the then-Burmese dissident was under house arrest. The former anti-communist Czech dissident and playwright championed her for the Nobel Peace Prize in 1991.
Foreign Affairs Minister Tomáš Petříček, known for his focus on human rights issues as opposed to the Prime Minister and President’s preference for economic diplomacy and business opportunities, announced Prague was still closely following the human rights developments in Myanmar.
Aung San Suu Kyi, a former human rights icon, has faced worldwide criticism in recent years for her failure to condemn and put a stop to the persecution of the Rohingya people, Myanmar’s Muslim community, described as “a textbook example of ethnic cleansing” by the United Nations.