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Free Burma Now


In Burma, the military junta continues to conduct night raids, arresting anyone who may have been involved in recent pro-democracy protests. More than one-thousand of those arrested, including hundreds of Buddhist monks, are still missing, and in grave danger. Win Shwe, a member of the opposition National League for Democracy party, died in custody. A Thailand-based human rights group, the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners, said the activist died "as a result of torture during interrogation."

The Burmese regime shut down Internet access, blocked cell phone service, and seized computers and satellite telephones. All this in an effort to keep what is happening in Burma from the outside world. But First Lady Laura Bush says the regime has not succeeded in keeping their brutality a secret: “The world watches,” she wrote in the Wall Street Journal newspaper, and what the world has seen has left “Gen. Than Shwe and his deputies. . . .a friendless regime.”

“The time for a free Burma is now,” says Mrs. Bush. “As part of a peaceful transition process,” she wrote, “the generals must immediately stop their terror campaigns against their own people. They must commit to a meaningful, unrestricted dialogue with Aung San Suu Kyi and other opposition leaders – including the demonstrating monks, the 88 Generation Students and members of Ms. Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy party.”

On September 27, the Treasury Department acted to block the assets of fourteen senior members of the Burmese government. The State Department has designated additional senior Burmese officials and their family members – over 200 individuals – as subject to a Presidential Proclamation suspending entry into the United States by certain persons. Sanctions are already making a difference: Gen. Than Shwe said he is willing to meet with Aung San Suu Kyi, but only if Ms. Suu Kyi will “stop calling for economic sanctions.” First Lady Laura Bush says that means “The junta is feeling the financial squeeze.”

“Gen. Than Shwe and his deputies have the advantage of violent force,” says First Lady Laura Bush, but “the regime’s position grows weaker by the day.” Even though under assault, she says the pro-democracy activists are gaining strength: “Ms. Suu Kyi and other opposition leaders have moral legitimacy, the support of the Burmese people and the support of the world.”

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