Statement by First Lady Mrs. Laura Bush on Freedom in Burma


March 5, 2021

President Bush and I are saddened and angered by the senseless violence and loss of life occurring to those peacefully protesting for freedom in Burma.

In recent years, democratic gains gave hope that Burmese leaders were building a free and open society. Instead, the Burmese military leadership prefers to return to the days of fear, poverty, and oppression. Hundreds of innocent people have been detained and jailed for exercising their rights to freedom of speech and peaceful assembly. Many have been brutally beaten or killed. The world is watching these shameful abuses of human rights, and we condemn them.

Through our work with the Bush Institute’s Liberty and Leadership Program, George and I have come to know many young Burmese leaders — including former political prisoners, members of parliament, and journalists — who believe that Burma should be a free and open democracy. They are deeply concerned for their country. And they worry about those who were already suffering before the coup — the Rohingya, and those affected by the challenges of the global pandemic.

The people of Burma want freedom. We see them fighting for it today. Free nations have a duty to stand with the Burmese people. It is our moral obligation to speak out against violations of human rights like the ones on the streets in Yangon and other cities. It is also in the United States’ interest to see Burma’s freedom advocates succeed. George and I stand with them, and we support their brave efforts.

What’s Happening in Burma?


Much of the systemic discrimination and ethnic conflict in Burma has been aimed toward the Rohingya—a Muslim ethnic minority group based in Rakhine State. Many citizens of Burma mistakenly believe that Rohingya are illegal immigrants from Bangladesh and do not belong in the country.

Since August 2017, more than 750,000 Rohingya have been driven into exile in Bangladesh by the Burmese military. International observers have denounced the crisis as a military-led ethnic cleansing and genocide.

The military dismissed the landslide victory of the NLD party in the November 8, 2020 general elections and insisted mass voter fraud was committed and the results were, therefore, invalid. On February 1, 2021, in a coup d’état, the military detained Aung San Suu Kyi, as well as the president of Burma and many other senior officials. The military assumed power in the country, declared an emergency and stated it intends to remain in control for a year. Phone communications were cut off and broadband streaming has been limited to military communications. Internet access continues to be periodically suspended in the country.

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