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Rice On Burma

On her visit to Busan, South Korea, to attend the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit, U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice brought up the issue of human rights abuses in Burma. Calling the Burmese military junta "one of the worst regimes in the world," she said that when "tyrannical" governments like Burma abuse their citizens, it is the responsibility of free countries to speak out:

"I don't think we get the kind of international condemnation of what's going on in Burma that we really need. And, I understand that a lot of countries that are neighbors of Burma feel the need to engage them. But, I would hope that engagement also takes the form of being serious about the really quite appalling human rights situation in Burma."

According to the U.S. State Department's latest human rights report, Burmese citizens "do not have the right to change their government. Security forces continue to commit extrajudicial killings, rape, and forcible relocation of persons, use forced labor, and conscript child soldiers."

The military junta is hostile to all forms of political opposition and dissent. This month, Hkun Htun Oo, chairman of the Shan Nationalities League for Democracy, was sentenced to life in prison. Seven other Burmese pro-democracy activists also received long sentences. They join some one-thousand-one-hundred Burmese who remain detained for the peaceful expression of their political views.

This year, Burmese National League for Democracy General Secretary and 1991 Nobel peace prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi spent her sixtieth birthday under house arrest. She was detained in May 2003 after thugs affiliated with the junta attacked her convoy. Aung San Suu Kyi has spent much of the past sixteen years in detention.

"The people of Burma live in the darkness of tyranny," says President George W. Bush. "But the light of freedom shines in their hearts," he says. "They want their liberty – and one day, they will have it."

The preceding was an editorial reflecting the views of the United States Government.