First Lady Laura Bush is joining the diplomatic effort to quell the violence in Myanmar, where soldiers have opened fire on 70,000 protestors, killing nine in the 10th straight day of demonstrations in Yangon, Myanmar's largest city.
Bush told ABC's Martha Raddatz that she is calling on citizens in other nations to put pressure on China -- the country with the most influence in Myanmar -- to urge the generals to exercise restraint.and move toward a democratic dialogue.
The following is a partial transcript of Raddatz's interview with the first lady.
Martha Raddatz: First, your reaction please on the news today that at least nine of the protestors have been killed.
Laura Bush: Well, I'm really sad about that. I think that is really sad. As we watch these protests in Burma [the former name of Myanmar], I've had some cautious optimism. I have, the whole time, been very worried because every other time there have been protestors like this in Burma, the military regime has reacted in a violent way to suppress these protests.
But these are the largest protests that Burma has had in a number of years. And with the Buddhist monks leading a lot of the protests, I thought maybe this time the military regime would not fire on the Buddhist monks -- Burma, as you know, is a devoutly Buddhist country and the monks there are highly revered. But it's sad, sad news out of Burma.
Raddatz: I see you quoted earlier saying you were disappointed in the worlds' reaction or what the world is doing.
Bush:Earlier, or at the end of the summer, at the end of August when I first started hearing about the protests that were coming out of Burma, and that point they were lead by citizens who were protesting the rise in fuel prices that the government had declared overnight actually on the Burmese people, the economy is in such shambles that I was hearing from our charge d'affairs there that employers were saying their employees were skipping lunch because they couldn't afford both the increased bus fare and to eat. So that's really what started the protests.
It was when we were at the ranch and, of course, a lot of people in government are gone during the month of August and I became more and more worried as I read these different dispatches because no one was speaking out.
And so that's when we got back from the ranch is when I called the secretary general. But, of course, since then the U.N. has become very responsive.
U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has asked the envoy, Gambari, to go back, and he is evidently trying to get into Burma from Singapore, and we hope the Burmese government will let him in.
The issue has gone to the Security Council. Once again the Chinese have said that they would veto a resolution, which is also worrisome. The Chinese are there who are really propping up the military regime with their economic partnership with Burma, using many, many natural resources that Burma has both their oil and gas and a lot of their timber, including teak and other rare woods. And that's worrisome, because as long as the Chinese government props them up, then we have less of a chance of moving to a democracy.
Message to China
Raddatz: What would your message to China be?
Bush: Well, I want China to join the rest of the world and do -- they have the most influence to speak to the generals, to urge them to use restraint. Not to fire on the protestors and to actually urge them to enter a dialogue with the, with the protestors and the other democracy advocates in Burma so they can start the transition to what was overwhelmingly the election in 1990, and that was the National League of Democracy Party won. Aung San Suu Kyi is their leader, and she's been under house arrest off and on ever since. And the military regime just, you know, said the results of the election didn't matter and they've been dictators ever since.
Raddatz: I think China did come out with a message today saying that they -- that is not enough.
Bush: I did hear that, and that's a good first step. I hope they'll do more.
Raddatz: A legislator from the European Union today said that they think the Olympics should be boycotted. Are you willing to go that far?
Bush: Well, I mean, that isn't my decision, certainly for our participation in the Olympics. But I do think it's a really good time for China to join the rest of the world both in, not propping up the government in the Sudan or in Burma.
And both of these countries are known for egregious human rights violations, and if China can be a partner with other countries, I think they could be very, very good help in both of these situations. And they seem to have been responsive in Darfur, and I hope they will be responsive in Burma as well.
Raddatz: What prompted your interest in Burma? This seems to be your No. 1 foreign policy issue.
Bush: Well, now it really is -- just these last few weeks because of watching these protests and being -- and I'm worried and concerned, actually for the citizens of Burma. I became interested in Aung San Suu Kwi, the Nobel Prize laureate, who's been under house arrest off and on for the last 18 years in Burma.
She, I think really represents the hopes of the Burmese people, the hopes for democracy, the hopes for an end to this tyrannical reign. Her father was in the military. Burma's military was once very well-established, very well-liked, very good reputation. He was really the hero of the liberation of Burma.
He was assassinated, and when she came back to Burma as an adult, she was able to lead the National League of Democracy party … and I hope people will study her life and learn about her because she's led a very interesting life of courage, I'd have to say, and sacrifice, but then I just became more and more aware of the human rights violations in Burma.
Raddatz: And do you talk to the president about this? I know the president put a statement out.
Bush: Sure. That's right. And in fact the sanctions that he announced in his speech at the United Nations General Assembly were enforced today. These are economic sanctions against 14 members of the military regime there. These are sanctions that both economic sanctions as well as visa blocks for these 14 members of the military and their families from the United States.
I do talk about it with him [President Bush]. I do talk about it with Dr. Rice and Steve Hadley and other people in the State Department that are very aware of what's going on in Burma. But, I mean, he's interested very much also just like I am.
Raddatz: And what else do you think the United States could do if the sanctions don't really work?
Bush: I think we just have to continue to put pressure on the regime in whatever way we can. We've had sanctions for many years -- well before my husband's presidency -- in Burma and, of course, economic sanctions when we're the only country that had the economic sanctions and their closest neighbors that are on their border and trading partners, China and India, don't have sanctions, then of course, they're not that effective.
Raddatz: And you think we should pressure ...
Bush: I think we should continue to press the U.N. I think we need to continue to call China and India out of our State Department and ask them to join us and ask them to speak to the generals themselves and ask them to use restraint.
Raddatz: And just one final question. Message to the Burmese army?
Bush: I'd like to, and I said this on a Voice of America broadcast yesterday, to ask the members, the armed guards and the members of the Burmese army, not to fire on their fellow citizens. To join the protests and not fire on their citizens. Or on the monks, the Buddhist monks, and I know that many, many Burmese are devout Buddhists and I hope that the military won't fire on the monks.
Raddatz: So you have a cousin who was interested in Burma, is there a connection?
Bush: That's right. I have a cousin who's an advocate for Burma, and she was really the one who got me interested in the first place.