Spreading Freedom

Vaclav Havel is one of the greatest figures of our times, an intellectual and a patriot who inspired the Czech people to throw off the chains of Communist oppression. His editorial in The Washington Post on supporting freedom for the people of Burma is a must-read:

I hope that the European Union will draw a lesson from this experience — for example, when it again negotiates lifting the arms embargo on China. It makes sense to keep up the pressure on the military junta in Burma, which considers all the justifiable calls to free Aung San Suu Kyi and other political prisoners, as well as calls to begin democratic reforms, to be unjustifiable interference in the country’s internal affairs.

Even a decade and a half after the fall of communism there, the citizens of Central and Eastern Europe still vividly remember that their communist rulers made the same arguments. Abuses of human rights and freedoms have never been and will never be solely internal affairs of any country. As someone who years ago experienced firsthand the arbitrary rule of a dictatorial regime but then lived to see better times — to a large extent because of the international solidarity extended to us — I appeal to all those who have the opportunity to act against such arbitrary acts to express their solidarity with people who to this day live in a state of “unfreedom.”

Burma is one of the most singularly oppressed places on Earth, right up there with North Korea in terms of abject human misery — and yet it is almost entirely ignored by policymakers. The military junta that controls Burma (a country they refer to as Myanmar) has prevented the legitimately elected leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, from taking power and has kept the country under the grip of totalitarianism.

Meanwhile, companies like France’s TotalFinaElf, the US’ Unocal, and others continue to do business with the Burmese junta despite international sanctions against the illigitimate regime.

The civilized world owes it to its own future and the future of all humankind to support, foster, and defend democracy worldwide. Brave men and women like Vaclav Havel and Aung San Suu Kyi deserve the support of all free peoples as they fight to bring the light of freedom to some of the darkest corners of our world.

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