For Burmese People, a Friend in High Places

December 13, 2007

Author: Simon Montlake

Source: The Christian Science Monitor

Nearly two decades of treating Burmese migrants on the Thai border has taught Cynthia Maung, herself a political refugee from military-ruled Burma (Myanmar), to expect the unexpected. Every day brings more migrants to her private clinic – many of whom can't afford treatment.

On Monday, the unexpected came from an entirely different direction: a hastily arranged teleconference with the White House. At the other end of the link-up was first lady Laura Bush, flanked by her husband's senior advisers on Asian affairs. She praised Dr. Maung's work, calling her "an inspiration," and sent a typically firm message to the Burmese government.

"Members of the junta have promised to engage in a serious dialogue with democratic representatives of the Burmese people," Mrs. Bush said. "If [junta leader] Than Shwe and the generals cannot meet these very basic requirements, then it's time for them to move aside."

Bush has stepped up a personal campaign in recent months to keep Burma in the headlines, even as international outrage ebbs over the regime's suppression in September of peaceful protests led by Buddhist monks.