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Bush Calls On Myanmar, China To Respect Rights

U.S. President George W. Bush speaking in Bangkok
During a stop in Bangkok on an Asian tour, U.S. President George W. Bush assailed the military regime in Myanmar and highlighted Washington's solidarity with the Burmese people.

For years, the United States has been a vocal critic of the Burmese regime, and Washington recently tightened its sanctions on the generals who run the country, following a deadly crackdown against pro-democracy demonstrators.

In a speech devoted to human rights, Bush voiced the United States' support for Myanmar's opposition leader, who has spent most of the past 19 years under house arrest. "America reiterates our call on Burma's military junta to release Aung San Suu Kyi and other political prisoners," he said. "We will continue working until the people of Burma have the freedom that they deserve."

As he was speaking, First Lady Laura Bush toured a refugee camp on the Thai-Burmese border, which houses thousands of people who have fled oppression in their native land.

The visit comes a day before the anniversary of the August 8, 1988, uprising in the Burmese capital Rangoon, when students, Buddhist monks and even young military cadets took to the streets, only to face a massacre by the army.

Shifting his tone, but continuing the criticism, Bush stressed that he has consistently urged China to make progress on human rights. "I have spoken clearly and candidly and consistently with China's leaders about our deep concerns over religious freedom and human rights," Bush said.

"I have met repeatedly with Chinese dissidents and religious believers. The United States believes the people of China deserve the fundamental liberty that is the natural right of all human beings."

Speaking in detail about the Chinese policies Washington condemns, Bush said: "America stands in firm opposition to China's detention of political dissidents and human rights advocates and religious activists. We speak out for a free press and freedom of assembly and labor rights, not to antagonize China's leaders, but because trusting its people with greater freedom is the only way for China to develop its full potential."

Bush now heads to Beijing, where he will attend the opening ceremony of the Olympics on August 8.
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