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For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
August 7, 2008
President Bush Visits with Burma Activists
12:06 P.M. (Local)
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you all for joining me. I'm looking forward to my lunch with men and women who care deeply about the human condition in Burma.
Unfortunately, my wife is not here. She's on the Thai-Burmese border talking about the same thing that we're going to be talking about. 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. And part of my reason for asking you for lunch is not only to hear your own stories -- hear your stories, but for you to give me advice about what you think America ought to be doing.
I've just been briefed on the response to the typhoon. And I'm pleased that our government was so generous. And I'm pleased that a lot of the aid that we paid for is actually getting to the people themselves. One of my questions is not how much money you get, but is it actually making a significant difference in people's lives, and was told -- as I was told the stories about U.S. money used to buy seed and fertilizer so farmers in the delta can get their crops in the ground and feed their families and hopefully feed people in their communities.
I'm always inspired by acts of courage, and I'm having lunch with courageous people. So I want to thank you for coming. We'll have a couple of comments, and then we'll eat some food.
Do you want to start, please? What's your name?
LWAY AYE NANG: My name is Lway Aye Nang. I'm from the Palaung area. I also belong to the Women's League of Burma, Eastern Burma Women's organization, which is -- (inaudible) -- different ethnic cities in Burma. And we are working to empower women and to be able to -- (inaudible) -- peacefully when it comes to issues in Burma, and also raising awareness about Burma, about the gross human rights violations in Burma that are committed by the regime -- and the international community can help with this work.
The military regime, they are continuing to deploy their troops along the ethnic areas, and they also just continue to commit sustained human rights violations against the ethnic nationality. This includes also rapes. This has been used -- long used as a weapon of war in Burma.
And we do -- (inaudible) -- to get the support -- with the support from the international community, and we are very lucky and very fortunate to have the United States government to support us in different means and different ways. And especially we would like to give -- I would like to give our gratitude to the United States for the new sanctions in blocking the --
THE PRESIDENT: Right, right.
LWAY AYE NANG: -- to the United States. And this is really hitting the regime and -- the regime and their associates who have been defiling the country's natural resources for their own benefit and leaving ordinary citizens in extreme poverty.
And secondly, we are also very grateful to have our American friends in helping the Cyclone Nargis survivors, the victims. And we also would like to inform the United States government here there is still restrictions of aid to the Cyclone Nargis victims by the military regime. And we'd like to also request that the United States government to put pressure, to continue to put pressures on the regime to give the access by the locals and international community to the victims of the Nargis Cyclone survivors. And because we are really concerned as a women's organization here, women and children who are in the Cyclone Nargis affected area are vulnerable to the sexual exploitations.
Thank you, sir.
THE PRESIDENT: Good job.
AUNG ZAW: My name is Aung Zaw. I was a student activist in 1988 and I was briefly detained. I spent a week in a notorious prison. I was tortured there and after that time left Burma. I started the Irrawaddy Magazine, which I started documenting human rights violations and started collecting information from Burma. So we have a stringer who worked inside the country to send us information to us of abuse -- we use information from him. He was an independent person -- and I think we are very pleased that we have this lunch meeting and this was a very, I think, not only a symbolic meeting, but also send a strong signal to some ASEAN nations, also to China who continue to defend and protect the Burmese military government.
Thank you, Mr. President.
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you.
END 12:13 P.M. (Local)