Monthly Archives: December 2011

Christmas for Burma?

Burma is a country of numerous denominations and over 130 ethnic groups. Not all of them will be celebrating Christmas, and most of the country’s 50 million inhabitants are still looking at a desperate future. During this holiday time, hundreds of thousands of Burmese will be on the run from civil war and persecution, and over a million are living in desolate conditions at the bottom rung in foreign societies in countries they had to escape to in search of security and a livelihood.

The year 2011 has seen notable developments not only inside Burma and among Burmese communities in Burma’s neighboring countries, but also at Burma Center Prague. While we are concluding the – for now – last year of our three-year project in India, we launched one more project, as we finally garnered financial support for the assistance we provide to Burmese refugees in the Czech Republic. With this new project, we enlarged our team from 3 to 8 part or full-time members.

Now is the best time to thank our supporters, and not least the volunteers and core members who donated much of their free time and perseverance. As you know, the global economic crisis affects not only profit-making businesses, but even more the work of charitable endeavors that have to rely on “that little extra” money from their supporters.

Become a Friend of Burma

In 2007, the Saffron Revolution was violently suppressed. In 2008, over 100,000 Burmese perished in the aftermath of Cyclone Nargis. The year 2010 saw elections that were far from democratic but might still bring about some changes. While civil war in the areas of the Karen and Kachin intensifies and increases the suffering of the population, and over 1,000 thousand political prisoners remain in prison for having exercised democracy, foreign investors have already begun to exploit Burmese natural resources.

While some may see as a time for cautious optimism, we still need to make sure that further developments take the right direction.

The non-profit organization Burma Center Prague is one of the most active advocates of the Burmese people, not only in Europe. We focus on the integration of Burmese refugees into Czech society, on the empowerment of Burmese civil society and democratic forces in Burma’s neighboring country India, and we seek to raise awareness among the general public about the complex situation.

It goes without saying that we would not be able to do this work without the help of volunteers and individual donors. Our projects are usually funded only in part and don’t cover all of our activities. We need additional support to fill the gap.

We would like to ask you, therefore, to join our group of our supporters, the Friends of Burma, .

The year 2012 will see new elections in Burma, this time with the participation of Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy. And there is a real chance that Burma’s political prisoners will be released. By supporting us, you can help ensure that the changes happening in Burma will bring the best to the people in Burma, and not only to the Burmese army, the ruling elites, and foreign investors.

Famine in Burma – the next step

The suffering population of Burma’s Chin State has made it through the famine, not least thanks to your valuable support. To date, we have transferred 322,000 CZK (about €13,000 or US$16,000) to Burmese relief organizations on the Indo-Burmese border. Much work still has to be done in order to help the people get back on their feet, which is not an easy task given the suppression of the Chin ethnic group by the Burmese army and the complete unawareness of ordinary Burmese about the possible role of a strong, independent and qualified civil society to represent people’s interests.

Common wisdom in the area of development aid states that you help the hungry most sustainably by teaching them to catch fish, rather than supplying fish and making them dependent in the long run. In this spirit, Burma Center Prague’s philosophy implies that we empower grassroots groups and efficiently support their operation on a case-by-case basis, demanding in return accountability, efficient work, and development of their skills. We consider refugees living in India or the Czech Republic not a burden, but a fortunate opportunity to invest in the present Burma through trans-border activities and in the future society of Burma through the repatriation of qualified and supportive citizens during the country’s transition.

While we will still continue until the end of the year to collect money for a final delivery of aid to famine victims, our strategy for 2012 foresees moving on to the next phase of help.

Please take this last opportunity to fund some more rice and seeds for the impoverished villagers – find out more at Starting from next year, we will focus on empowering the Burmese self-support groups for more efficient and sustainable help to their fellow countrymen.

If, however, you would like to support Burmese civil society now, you can do so at

All that’s left is to wish you and yours a happy and peaceful holiday season!

The Burma Center Prague team


P.S. The BCP office will be closed from 22 December to 2 January as the team takes a much-needed rest.


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Burmese pay their last respects to Václav Havel


“This is not only a loss for one person or one country, it is a great loss for humankind.”

Aung San Suu Kyi

This message was conveyed today through her assistant Htin Kyaw in Burma at the request of Burma Center Prague. Suu Kyi 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 importance of the dissident, playwright and former Czechoslovak and Czech president Václav Havel for the global support of Burma cannot be overstated. Havel nominated Aung San Suu Kyi for the Nobel Peace Prize in 1991, and it was no one more than him who kept Burma on the public agenda of the Czech Republic until now.

When Suu Kyi 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. A delegation of Burmese activists and former political prisoners together with the former Czech ambassador to Burma H.E. Jiří Šitler paid their last respects at Havel’s coffin, laying a bouquet of roses with a ribbon that said “To a True Friend – Aung San Suu Kyi”.

It is sad that Havel did not manage to see Burma in freedom, and that his deteriorating health has prevented him from visiting Aung San Suu Kyi. But he will still after having passed away remain the most important European statesman for the people of Burma, and one who they will always remember with gratitude, because he has done more for their country than most of their own rulers.

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Burma Center Prague’s online dictionary hits the 1 mio mark

screenshot of the dictionary

And the ad banner says: "Life is searching". So true.

Whoohoo! I was waiting for the right moment when the counter would jump across the 1,000,000 mark. OK, I missed it. Never mind.

So, what’s next? We have some plans to integrate the dictionary into the upcoming activities. Until then, enjoy it in its unspoiled beauty at ;-)

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