THE AQUARIUMS OF MYANMAR:

Personal Tales of Struggle Resonate With President (Warren Vieth, 11/13/05, LA Times)

It was an activist’s dream come true: an unexpected call to the White House, a private audience with the president, an opportunity to influence U.S. policy, maybe even alter the course of world events.

For Charm Tong, it happened two weeks ago. For about an hour, President Bush listened as the 24-year-old refugee told the story of her life as a Burmese exile in Thailand — and as she described the systematic abuse of ethnic minority women by the military regime in Myanmar, formerly known as Burma.

“The president was very interested in what is going on inside the country, to the people, to the women, how rape is used as a weapon of war,” Charm Tong later told a reporter, as she unwound on a park bench not far from the White House. “He asked many questions.”

Among them, she said, was the biggest question of all: What could the United States do to help? She urged Bush to use his trip this week to Asia to persuade other countries, particularly Japan, to bring more pressure to bear on the military dictatorship in Rangoon.

Bush leaves Monday for Japan, China, Mongolia and South Korea, where he will attend an Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation meeting. “He said he would raise the issue with the countries,” Charm Tong said.

It was

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