Burmese democracy activists told President George W. Bush today that he should pursue “more assertive diplomacy” with the military regime in Burma.
During the meeting in Thailand, the dissidents prodded Bush to “make Burma more of a priority and engage key regional players” such China, Russia and India, said Naing Aung, secretary-general of the Forum for Democracy in Burma, an exile group based in Thailand.
“We told him we would like to see more assertive diplomacy,” said Aung, one of nine participants in the 90-minute working lunch at the US embassy in Bangkok.
Bush began the meeting by praising the participants for their courage. “I want you to know, and I want the people of your country to know, the American people care deeply about the people of Burma, and we pray for the day in which the people will be free,” he said.
The activists pressed Bush to raise the issue of Burma, formerly called Burma, in his meeting with Chinese President Hu Jintao this week, said Aung Naing Oo, a former student leader based in Thailand.
Bush in a speech earlier today called for “an end to tyranny in Burma.” His Bangkok address, given just hours before he departed for Beijing, detailed the US’s “deep concerns” over religious freedom and human rights in China.
Thailand was the second stop on Bush’s three-country East Asia tour, the last of his presidency and built around attending the Olympics in China.
After lunch with the democracy activists, Bush gave radio interviews to Thai and international media outlets that broadcast into Burma, giving the president an opportunity to speak directly to the Burmese people.
Separately, First Lady Laura Bush toured a refugee camp on the Thai-Burma border. The president said that he was looking forward to a briefing from the First Lady, who also has criticized Burma’s junta.
In his radio roundtable, Bush acknowledged the difficulties in effecting change inside Burma. “I make no promises to your listeners, except that we’ll continue to try,” he said.