Dec 11, 2007 (AFP), US First Lady Laura Bush on Monday called on Burma’s military rulers to free democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi and urged the country’s neighbors to pile pressure on the regime for political freedoms.
Surrounded by some of US President George W. Bush’s top foreign policy advisers for Asia, Laura Bush said junta leader Than Shwe had offered "only token gestures" of reform in the face of a tightening international squeeze.
"If he and the generals are serious, they should give Aung San Suu Kyi unlimited access to the diplomatic community and other members of the Burmese opposition," she said.
"She and other political leaders should be released immediately and unconditionally so they can plan a strategy for Burma’s peaceful transition to democracy," said Laura Bush.
She was speaking to the founder of a clinic in Thailand that provides to people fleeing from Burma in a videoconference call marking International Human Rights Day.
"President Bush and I call on all nations, especially Burma’s neighbors, to use their influence to help bring about a democratic change," said the first lady.
"Especially on Human Rights Day, we stand with the courageous people who are standing up for democracy and justice in Burma," she said, pushing the junta to engage the opposition in a "serious dialogue" and free political prisoners.
"If Than Shwe and the generals cannot meet those very basic requirements, then it’s time for them to move aside and make a clear path for a free and democratic Burma," she said.
Laura Bush has emerged as a US point person for Burma, sharply criticizing the junta, especially after its military and police drew international outrage over a September crackdown on pro-democracy protests.
Assistant Secretary of State Christopher Hill, the US envoy on North Korea; Jim Jeffrey, the US deputy national security adviser; and the top US National Security Council (NSC) hand for Asia, Dennis Wilder attended the call.