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Czechs press for referendum on “the son of star wars”: 67% of Czechs are against hosting US base

U.S. plans to build a radar base in the Czech Republic are meeting resistance from Czechs who do not want their country to be part of the missile defense program. They’re not alone. Demonstrations took place around the world yesterday as concerns rise about the militarization of space. Elise Hugus has more from Prague.

REPORTER:
Sunday dinner took on a different flavor yesterday, as hundreds of people around the world took part in a one-day hunger strike against the U.S. missile shield program. Thirty cities in Europe, North America and Australia held demonstrations to protest a radar base planned in western Czech Republic. It would be part of the Pentagon’s antiballistic missile defense program, designed to shoot down incoming missiles while they’re still in the air.

Jan Tamas is an organizer with a coalition of Czech groups against the base.  After two years of asking for a referendum, he and another organizer, Jan Bednar, decided to go on a hunger strike. During their three weeks without food, the Czech government paid no attention to them. Tamas and Bednar ended their fast on June 2, but the hunger strike is ongoing, with one new person taking part each day.

JAN:
 I really feel there’s a big defecit in democracy in that the govt is doing this thing withouth the knowledge of its people and often times against their will. We believe simply that in these important issues such as having foreign troops on our territory, people should have a say, that there should be a vote.

REPORTER:
According to independent polls, 67% of Czechs are against hosting the radar base. Yet the Topolanek government recently finalized the treaty with U-S officials. The question is now before a divided Parliament, which will vote next month.

Forty years after a Soviet military invasion, also known as Prague Spring, Czechs are still wary of foreign troops on their soil. Many are angry that the current government negotiated with the United States in secret; and only after the elections in 2007, were the plans made public.

At a kiosk in downtown Prague, Julia Kakoly signed a petition in favor of holding a referendum.

JULIA:
I signed because I’m angry and I think it’s a totally stupid thing and it cannot protect Czech Republic. They didn’t ask if we want it or not. They just said, we will have it. That’s it.

REPORTER:
Some who signed the petition, like Martin Alabatz, say they fear a US military installation will make Czech Republic a target.

MARTIN:
I don’t see a reason to have here some other state like America. Their politics is selfish and not good for everybody…. because the first attack would be here I think. Nobody persuaded me so that I would believe it would be safe.

REPORTER:
Others see political reasons for the Czech government to align with U-S military strategy. Daniel Richter is a political science student in Prague.

DANIEL:
I believe that Czech citizens think they are neutral to intnl affairs, they are somehow aside from what is going on in the world. I personally agree with the radar in this country because it would put Czech Republic to where it historically belonged. It means, in western Europe. It is we are either on one side or we are on the other. There is no other way.

REPORTER:
U-S missile buildup in Eastern Europe raises concerns in diplomatic circles of a renewed arms race. The Russian government views American installations in Czech Republic and Poland as a direct threat. Both Russia and the United States have pulled out of ballistic missile treaties in recent years.

Dana Feminova is a spokeswoman for the Humanist non-violence movement in Czech Republic:

DANA:
We’re not against American, we are against all the foreigner armies that would like to install anything in our country. I believe we have started a protest which is not only about the radar in Czech Republic but to show people we have to refuse the armaments and we have to refuse another preparation of wars. We would like to give a chance to peace.

REPORTER:
Yesterday’s protests highlight the fact that the US missile shield has global implications. Efforts to block the base in Czech Republic have gained attention of the European Parliament, sparking hopes that a European Union decision will resolve the issue once and for all.

For Free Speech Radio News, I’m Elise Hugus, in Prague.

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