“The Czech Republic as an EU member country would like to serve as a bridge between the European Union and both Myanmar and the region in order to bring about a better understanding of each other.”

Ambassador H.E. Jaroslav Dolecek

  • By GNLM
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Ambassador H.E. Jaroslav Dolecek.  Photo: Kyaw Zeya

Q1. Excellency, We would also like to know the depth of changes and pace of reforms you have noticed during your term in Myanmar.
I arrived in your country in April 2015, before the general elections, and saw enthusiasm, expectations and hope for more changes and reforms. Some of these changes had already started and some were on the way – logically at a different depth and pace. Changes worth mentioning are: the mobile phone era, the drive for the internet, a passion for Facebook – connected with that an awareness of the people and freedom of expression – better transportation, a more modern infrastructure, an increase in Foreign Direct investment, the selling of brand new cars, more small and medium enterprises, electricity in more parts of Myanmar, more shopping malls and a greater variety of products. In addition, Mandalay was awarded the fifth smartest city in ASEAN and Bagan was UNESCO listed etc.
And reforms? Many new laws were passed in Parliament, such as the New Myanmar Investment and Companies Law as well as reforms in the financial services sector and some others. Of course, a 4-year term is a challenge for any government to make all the changes and reforms it would want or like to. Still, some changes remain to be made; but in my opinion the depth and pace of them is related to the speed of your transition to democracy and the rule of law, which when compared to other countries around the world is remarkable.
I come from a country that also experienced substantial social and economic transition and our own story is a perfect example of the fact that change and development is possible. We graduated from an international aid recipient to a respected member of the donor community but it took us 20 years of intensive work. Myanmar is now in only the first quarter of that period and has the full potential to succeed as well, if the pace of reforms is kept up, or even slightly increased.

Q2. Excellency, please share your experience relating State Counsellor Excellency Daw Aung San Suu Kyi’s official visit to the Czech Republic in June.
Yes, I am happy to share my experience with great pleasure. For me personally, as well as for my country, the official visit of the State Counselor H.E. Daw Aung Sun Suu Kyi was the peak and highlight of Czech and Myanmar diplomatic relations.
It was after a long 53 years, the first high-level visit from the Myanmar side. I would like to call this first visit to Europe after June 2017, a friendly visit based on a genuine long-term friendship between our peoples and particularly their representatives.
It was no coincidence that H.E.’s stay in Prague started with the laying of flowers at the grave of our former president Vaclav Havel, who was such a close friend and supporter of H.E. Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and the people of Myanmar during some of the more difficult times for your country.
Other notable highlights of the visit were: the official receptions by our President, Prime minister and other high representatives, a very successful business forum, her memorable speech and the receiving of the Historical Medal at Charles University and the opening of a photo exhibition called Beauties of Myanmar and lastly, but not least, the opening of the Myanmar embassy in Prague, the first newly opened embassy of your country during the term of your current government.
So overall, what did this visit bring to both countries? Firstly, a deepening of our friendship and a better understanding of each other, and secondly the promotion of our economic cooperation and of course everything has been done for the benefit of our both nations in a bilateral way but also with the added dimension of the involvement of the EU and fellow member states.

Q3. After the official re-opening of Myanmar embassy in Prague, Myanmar Woman Ambassador to the Czech Republic Daw Kay Thi Soe was appointed. We want to know your impression on significant achievements of Myanmar-Czech diplomatic relations.
We welcome the re-opening of the Myanmar Embassy in Prague and sincerely believe it will bring a new wind to the sails of mutual relations. In the last few years, we have seen a rapid increase in the diplomatic activities of both sides. We had two successful visits by Czech ministers to Myanmar, the opening of our Honorary Consulate in Mandalay and the already high-level state visit to Prague in June this year. And since the opening of our embassy in Yangon in 2014 and after my arrival there, we have tried to make Czech Republic in your country visible. We have implemented many development and transition projects, provided humanitarian aid assistance after natural catastrophes, and helped with the building of infrastructure. We built schools, reconstructed drug rehabilitation centre and saved the lives of farmers by providing snakebite antivenom. We also successfully engaged in economic diplomacy at government-to-government and business-to-business levels.
However, we know that there is still also room for improvement. Now, together with our dear colleagues from the Myanmar Embassy in Prague, we can multiply our efforts to enhance our diplomatic relations at the highest levels.

Q4. Excellency, full-fledged embassies were already opened in Myanmar and the Czech Republic. Please tell us future cooperation in bilateral, regional and multinational levels.
The Czech Republic would like to continue strengthening bilateral relations with Myanmar that are at an historic high this year. The fact that we share many similar points in our history and have a good understanding of one another brings many opportunities to strive for better engagement across culture, education, economy and trade, and people-to-people policy. At regional and multinational levels, the Czech Republic as an EU member country would like to serve as a bridge between the European Union and both Myanmar and the region in order to bring about a better understanding of each other.

Q5. Excellency, what would be our economic cooperation priorities?
There are many examples of ongoing cooperation between individual companies. Most current business operations are in the form of mutual trade exchanges in glass, food, machinery, pharmacy and so on. Some Czech companies have found exclusive distributors in Myanmar and are building long-term strategic partnerships, such as in the case of Czech crystal glass manufacturers. Our Embassy is actively assisting Czech exporters and will continue with this; however, we are still waiting for a Czech company to reach out to us for assistance with an investment project and that could be our goal for the future. We intend to encourage a bigger flow of business groups from both sides in attending various economic forums, to participate in trade fairs and to, ultimately, establish mutually fruitful business partnership.

Q6. Excellency, please share your comments regarding the State Counsellor’s lecture at Charles University: “Challenges of Transition.” She pointed out that political democratization, peace negotiations and Rakhine issue are the parts of Myanmar’s transition that captures world attention and makes the headlines. Few seemed to address Myanmar people’s needs from the transition, the basic needs of water, roads, electricity, health and education.
The Czech Republic is very much aware of the scope of the challenges lying ahead of Myanmar. We also know that time is the most crucial aspect and to give time means to provide an opportunity to face challenges and deal with them. There will always be events that make headlines and the context that simply stays in the background. This means that due to the Rakhine issue other serious issues may not be as visible and do not capture world attention as much. In my opinion, however, one could take care of human rights in parallel in your country and at the same time focus on the development on needed infrastructure everywhere. I will give you an example concerning the lack of road network in Myanmar. Once a Myanmar businessman showed me a part of Myanmar on the map where there are no roads. Moreover, he pointed out that when roads are built there, the development of transportation, trade, infrastructure, peace, stability and more importantly better lives of local people will follow. I agreed.
Our country also contributes to global efforts towards peace and prosperity in partnership with Myanmar. An important part of our cooperation is in the education sector, which is an investment in the future of the country. Our assistance is always impartial and no community or group is preferred or left behind.

Q7. Education is the basic foundation for sustainable peace, development and democracy. Excellency, what would you like to say about the education reforms for better education system in Myanmar.
I have seen, to my personal satisfaction, that the awareness of the need for education reform in Myanmar and the effort with which your government has been addressing this problem.

I would like to mention some of the government’s initiatives such as the investment in education, the dramatic increase in the number of teachers or the expansion of access to basic education. But I have learned that there are still some challenges ahead for example the development of preschool education, the need to improve the quality of and access to basic education and teacher education and management. I am very proud to say that in terms of efforts for better education, Myanmar has supporters from the EU and its member states, which includes the Czech Republic, who have already contributed 221 million Euros to education reforms in Myanmar.
I also see the growing interest of your young generation in taking up opportunities to study abroad and in doing so get a more complex and broader view, which will then help them in tackling difficulties at home.
Everybody knows that the youth is the future of any country in the world, and this is no different for Myanmar. Let us help you in this endeavour and encourage people not to be afraid of education reforms.

Q8. Besides the State level and high level exchange of visits, we would like to know future plans for strengthening regular people-to-people contacts.
The people-to-people contacts have been, and are being, carried out across many spheres: culture, education, institutional contact and through the work of civil society. The Czech Republic has been realizing a number of different projects in Myanmar, which have concentrated on civil society, the rule of law, human rights and education. We would also like to strengthen cultural ties between our two countries, to bring more of Czech culture to Myanmar and to assist our Myanmar friends in presenting your culture to the Czech people.
In addition, our projects provide support for Czech-Myanmar economic cooperation and contribute to strengthening people-to people contact. Many trade deals later lead to long-term partnerships and even friendships between Czech and Myanmar businessmen and women.
Another example is tourism. There are a growing number of Czechs who arrive in Myanmar, often as individual tourists, and make contacts here that remain strong even after they return home; there are also a growing number of Myanmar travel agencies that are interested in operating tours to the Czech Republic, so the contacts are likely to become even closer and stronger in the future.

Q9. What do you like most about living and working in Myanmar?
Well, it is hard to count everything I enjoy most about living and working here, but OK I will try my best. Working in Myanmar for me, as the first Czech resident ambassador, was an honour and a privilege, because I have been witness to very exciting times in the history of your country, times of great hope for change, and times of great hope for the better lives of the people living in peace and harmony.
During our stay in your beautiful and photogenic country, my wife and I have been fortunate to do a lot of traveling. We were fascinated by the unspoiled nature and the authentic culture. We enjoyed your food, such as my beloved mohinga, tea leaf salad or Shan noodles.
But if I had to mention only one thing, the thing that stands out to me most is you – the people of Myanmar. It doesn´t matter the age, gender or position, it doesn’t matter the state or region, during my term here I have met and enjoyed my time with a people who are openhearted, genuine, smart, capable, dedicated, clever and resilient. To me, the Myanmar people are the greatest asset of your country. I will be leaving your country soon but will be keeping the people and their warmth with me in my heart forever.

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