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Burmese Crackdown

The Burmese military opened fire on peaceful demonstrators in Rangoon, wounding several and killing at least one, according to witnesses. Riot police also fired tear gas into the crowds and arrested hundreds of monks. Thousands of protesters, led by Buddhist monks, have been bravely defying the military junta's ban on demonstrations and its massive show of force.

During an earlier march in Rangoon, several hundred monks paid respects to pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi at the gate of her home. Aung San Suu Kyi has been under house arrest for most of the past nineteen years. It was the first time she has been seen in public in more than four years. Some press reported that authorities moved her from house arrest to the notorious Insein prison after her meeting with the demonstrators. However, these reports have not yet been confirmed.

"Americans," said President George W. Bush in a speech to the United Nations General Assembly, "are outraged by the situation in Burma." The Burmese people's desire for freedom is unmistakable and the U.S. will do more to help them achieve it, said Mr. Bush:

"The United States will tighten economic sanctions on the leaders of the regime and their financial backers. We will impose an expanded visa ban on those responsible for the most egregious violations of human rights, as well as their family members. We'll continue to support the efforts of humanitarian groups working to alleviate suffering in Burma. And I urge the United Nations and all nations to use their diplomatic and economic leverage to help the Burmese people reclaim their freedom."

The latest protests began in August over fuel price increases of up to five-hundred percent. But arrests of dissidents and intimidation of the public at large kept the demonstrations small and scattered until the monks joined.

The United States calls on the Burmese government to cease its violent crackdown on peaceful demonstrators, immediately and unconditionally release all political prisoners, and begin a genuine dialogue with the Burmese people, including members of opposition groups. "Every civilized nation," said President George W. Bush, "has a responsibility to stand up for the people suffering under dictatorship." That includes the Burmese people.