Thursday, July 31, 2008

Burma on Bush Agenda while in Thailand

By LALIT K JHA Thursday, July 31, 2008

WASHINGTON — US President George W Bush will travel to South Korea, Thailand and China next week before taking part in the opening ceremony for the Beijing Olympics.

While in Thailand, Bush, accompanied by his wife, Laura, will make a major policy statement on Burma while also meeting Burmese opposition group members.

On his second day in Thailand, Bush will attend a briefing by nongovernmental organizations and US agencies on the Cyclone Nargis relief effort.

"He will have a lunch in Bangkok with Burmese activists and hear their stories. And then he will be interviewed by the press in Thailand that broadcasts into Burma, so he can give a message directly to the Burmese people," said Dennis Wilder, the senior director for Asian affairs at the National Security Council.

"During the time that he is doing these events, Mrs. Bush will travel to Mae Sot, Thailand," Wilder said. The first lady has shown an exceptional interest in the affairs of Burma and the Bush's administration policy with regard to this country to some extent is driven by her strong support to the pro-democracy movement people.

Laura Bush will meet with refugees of the Mae La Refugee Camp, one of the largest refugee camps on the Thai-Burmese border.

"Following her visit to Mae La, she will travel to the Mae Tao Clinic," Wilder said. The clinic was founded by Dr. Cynthia Maung.

"You may remember that Mrs. Bush had a television event with Dr Cynthia Maung not long ago, and she is very much looking forward to getting on the ground and seeing the clinic in operation," Wilder said.

Dr Cynthia Maung said, “I don’t know anything about the agenda of the visit but my main presentation will be the difficulties of the situation that the Burmese people face here on the border and our need for humanitarian assistance.”

The clinic provides free health care for refugees, migrant workers and others who cross the border from Burma into Thailand.

Violet Cho contributed to this story.

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