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Page last updated at 09:36 GMT, Thursday, 7 August 2008 10:36 UK

Laura Bush calls for Burma reform

Laura Bush stands in front of a poster of Aung San Suu Kyi during her visit to the refugee camp
Laura Bush said reform was needed so refugees could return home

US First Lady Laura Bush has called on Burma's military leaders to engage in dialogue with the political opposition, as she visited a Burmese refugee camp.

Mrs Bush, an outspoken critic of the junta, met members of the ethnic Karen community at a camp on the Thai border.

She said reform would allow tens of thousands of refugees to go home.

Mrs Bush's visit came as her husband, President George W Bush, used a speech in the Thai capital, Bangkok, to call for "an end to tyranny" in Burma.

Mr Bush also called for the release of detained pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

The US would continue working until "the people of Burma have the freedom they deserve", he said.

'Real dialogue'

The US president and his wife made a one-day stop in Thailand on their way to the opening ceremony of the Beijing Olympic Games, which takes place on Friday.

Mrs Bush met refugees and visited a clinic at the Mae La camp, one of several on the border between Thailand and Burma.

Mae La is home to more than 35,000 refugees, many of whom have fled troop crackdowns on ethnic rebel groups. Rights groups accuse the Burmese army of raping and murdering civilians, and razing entire villages.

Burmese soldiers face protesters in Rangoon on 26 August 1988

The first lady called on military leaders to reform.

"If we could see a change in the Burmese government... people could move home in safety, that would be the best result," the French news agency AFP quoted her as saying.

"The best solution would be if General Than Shwe's regime would start real dialogue," she said.

The opposition National League for Democracy, led by Ms Suu Kyi, won a landslide victory in elections in 1990, but was never allowed to take power.

Ms Suu Kyi has spent more than 12 of the last 18 years under house arrest, while the military has just forced through a new constitution that further entrenches its grip on power.

In Bangkok, Mr Bush held talks with Burmese dissidents and journalists.

The presidential visit comes a day before the twentieth anniversary of a pro-democracy uprising that was crushed by the military.

At least 3,000 civilians died during a six-week period of demonstrations calling for an end to military rule.

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