- The Washington Times - Friday, August 8, 2008


First lady visits Burmese refugees

THA SONG YANG | First lady Laura Bush, meeting with refugees who fled a brutal campaign by Burma’s military junta, urged China and other countries Thursday to join the U.S. in imposing sanctions against the country.

Mrs. Bush, who is traveling in Asia with President Bush, flew to the Thai border with Burma, officially known as Myanmar, to visit the Mae La refugee camp and a health clinic run by a woman known as the “Mother Teresa of Burma.”

At the border, she met with some of the 38,000 refugees at Mae La, mostly from the Karen ethnic minority group that human rights organizations say is the target of an ongoing Burmese military campaign marked by killings of civilians, rapes and razing of villages. She also bid farewell to a group of Karen ready to depart for resettlement in the United States, including a family of seven bound for South Carolina who were boarding a bus.

Mrs. Bush and her daughter Barbara made their way through the muddy ground of the camp in pouring rain at about the same time Mr. Bush was delivering a speech in Bangkok, the Thai capital, calling for “an end to the tyranny” in Burma.

Mrs. Bush also visited the Mae Tao Clinic, run Dr. Cynthia Maung, a Karen Christian refugee who provides medical care on the Thai side of the border to more than 50,000 people from Burma every year.


Comedian faces political offenses

RANGOON | A popular comedian who is a prominent critic of Burma’s military government was formally charged Thursday with several political offenses.

Ma Htway, sister-in-law of comedian Zarganar, said a special court at Rangoon’s Insein Prison charged him with eight offenses, including unlawful association and causing public unrest.

Zarganar - whose birth name is Maung Thura - was arrested in June after he gave interviews to foreign media in which he criticized the junta’s slow response to the May 2-3 cyclone that killed more than 84,000 people. Three other people are being tried with him.

The court’s action came the same day the U.N. human rights envoy for Burma, Tomas Ojea Quintana, ended his first visit since taking up his job in May.


New statute allows multiparty elections

COLOMBO, Sri Lanka | Maldives President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom signed and adopted a new constitution Thursday that allows multiparty elections and other democratic reforms after decades of authoritarian rule.

The new constitution also creates independent bodies for human rights, the judiciary, police, defense, elections and investigation of corruption, a government spokesman said.

The first multiparty presidential election is to be held before Oct. 10, with a specific date to be announced after an election commissioner is appointed within 30 days as stipulated in the constitution.

Mr. Gayoom has ruled the Islamic nation with tight control for the past 30 years. He promised in 2004 to enact a new constitution amid widespread protests demanding reforms.

During his rule, the nation of 300,000 people living on 1,190 mostly uninhabited coral islands became one of the most attractive tourist destinations in South Asia.


Miss Nepal scrapped after Maoists object

KATMANDU | A contest to choose the next Miss Nepal slated for Thursday was canceled after Maoist female lawmakers denounced the beauty pageant.

The former rebels emerged as the single largest party in the country’s newly elected assembly and are poised to form the next government.

Maoist lawmaker Amrita Thapa said Wednesday that the Maoists would not allow an “anti-women” event inspired by “capitalist” elements.

“Such contests send the wrong message to society as they emphasize physical beauty rather than intellectual ability,” said another female Maoist leader.

The organizers hope to change the minds of the new lawmakers so they can hold the pageant in time to allow the winner to represent Nepal at the annual Miss World contest in Ukraine in October.


Indonesian nurses allowed under pact

TOKYO | Japan accepted more than 200 Indonesian nurses into the country Thursday, an unprecedented move as Tokyo struggles to quell a labor shortage triggered by sinking fertility rates.

The arrival of 205 Indonesians, an exception allowed under a bilateral economic agreement signed with Jakarta in April, signaled a loosening of immigration procedures in a country where many people equate foreigners with social disorder.


HIV-positive parents kill children, selves

BOMBAY | A couple living with HIV for two years killed their three children and then committed suicide after their daughter was also diagnosed with the virus that causes AIDS, it was reported Thursday.

The couple, depressed by their 6-year-old daughter’s diagnosis, reportedly fed poisoned candy to their two boys, 8 and 10, on Tuesday night, the Times of India reported.

The daughter survived the poisoning, so the parents smothered her before hanging themselves.

Stigma and discrimination against HIV-positive people are widespread in this country of 1.1 billion people.

From wire dispatches and staff reports



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