August 7, 2008

US President Backs Bilateral Means to End Thai-Cambodian Temple Row

Text of report in English by Thai newspaper Bangkok Post website on 7 August

[Report by Anucha Charoenpo, AFP: "Bush: America Seeks An End To Tyranny in Burma; reiterates call for release of Suu Kyi]

United States President George W. Bush has vowed to "seek an end to tyranny" in Burma and called on the regime to free democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi, according to a copy of a speech he will deliver in Bangkok today.

Photo from Bangkok Post, AFP, 7 August. Caption reads: "US President George W. Bush and Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej in the Purple Room of Government House yesterday before a dinner to celebrate 175 years of bilateral relations between the two countries."

"We seek an end to tyranny in Burma," the US president says in the speech.

"America reiterates our call on Burma's military junta to release Aung San Suu Kyi and all other political prisoners.

"And we will continue working until the people of Burma have the freedom they deserve."

An advance copy of the speech on US policy towards Asia was released as Mr Bush headed to Bangkok from Seoul, on a regional tour ahead of his visit to Beijing for the opening of the Olympic Games tomorrow. His visit is to celebrate the 175th year of bilateral relations between Thailand and the US.

Mr Bush held talks over dinner with Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej soon after arriving in Bangkok.

Mr Samak used the occasion to thank the visiting president for Washington's understanding on the Preah Vihear issue.

As a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council, the US supported Thailand's attempts to end the border row with Cambodia without interference from other countries.

Last month, Phnom Penh tried to get the spat over the disputed area near the temple tabled before the council, but Bangkok opposed the move.

The Cambodian government later withdrew the issue from the UN.

"We agreed that our alliance and friendship will remain as strong and close as it has been in the past 174 years," the prime minister said before the dinner.

"We are determined to continue working closely together to further strengthen our relationships and goodwill for the benefit of our two countries and the region."

Mr Bush thanked Thailand for its cooperation with the US on the Cobra Gold joint military exercise and praised the kingdom for restoring democracy and its quick humanitarian response for victims of Cyclone Nargis in Burma.

Yesterday, security was strengthened at Government House in preparation for the official visit, with hundreds of police deployed around the compound.

A helicopter flew above Government House and police dogs checked for any illicit substances and explosives.

Private vehicles were forbidden from entering Government House after 4pm, while staff who were not responsible for the reception were told to leave their offices and take their vehicles out of Government House immediately after they finished work.

After giving his speech on his Asian policy, the US president will today visit the Mercy Centre in Klong Toey, set up by American Father Joseph Maier in 1974 to help children in the slums.

He will meet exiled political dissidents from Burma, on the eve of the 20th anniversary of the 8/8/88 pro-democracy uprising there which was crushed by the army, leaving 3,000 dead.

Today, Mr Bush's wife Laura plans to visit the Mae Tao clinic in Mae Sot district in Tak province and the Mae La Karen refugee camp near the ThaiBurmese border in Tha Song Yang district in the same province, which houses 60,000 refugees, most of them Karen.

The clinic is run by Cynthia Maung, who received the Magsaysay Award for community leadership last year and was named one of Time magazine's Asian heroes in 2003.

Mrs Bush has been an outspoken critic of the Burmese junta, and the president's speech hailed efforts by Mrs Suu Kyi in trying to bring democracy to a country which has been ruled by the military since 1962.

Mrs Suu Kyi led her National League for Democracy party to election victory in 1990, but instead of recognising the result the junta placed her under house arrest, where she has now been detained for most of the subsequent 19 years.

Originally published by Bangkok Post website, Bangkok, in English 7 Aug 08.

(c) 2008 BBC Monitoring Asia Pacific. Provided by ProQuest Information and Learning. All rights Reserved.