BANGKOK, Thailand – President Bush (search) pressed Thailand's leader Sunday to help restore democracy in neighboring Myanmar and to push for the release of pro-democracy opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi (search).
Bush and Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra met on the eve of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (search) summit, likely to take up the repressive rule of Myanmar's junta.
The United States urged Southeast Asian countries over the weekend to use "all tools at their disposal" to free Suu Kyi and bring democracy to a country that has been under a military regime since 1962. Myanmar, also known as Burma, has drawn international criticism for detaining Suu Kyi, and dragging its feet on a long-standing promise to free its political system.
The current junta held elections in 1990, but refused to recognize the results after Suu Kyi's party won.
"He asked me to help push for democracy in Myanmar and for the release of Aung San Suu Kyi," Thaksin said after his session with Bush.
Bush said Thaksin gave him a "sympathetic hearing" on the subject and assured him that the two countries share the same goal.
"We care deeply about Aung San Suu Kyi and the status of Aung San Suu Kyi, and we would like to see her free," Bush told reporters.
Suu Kyi has been under house arrest since Sept. 26, after spending a week in a hospital for an operation for a gynecological condition. Before her hospitalization, the 1991 Nobel Peace Prize winner was held incommunicado at an undisclosed location by the military government.
She was detained following a bloody May 30 clash between her supporters and a pro-government mob while she was touring northern Myanmar.
The junta first said she was being held for her own safety, but later that her detention was intended to safeguard public security.
Secretary of State Collin Powell said he discussed Myanmar with foreign and trade ministers from the 21-member APEC.
Critics say Myanmar has been let off lightly by the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations, of which it is a member. The group has not criticized Myanmar, for Suu Kyi's detention because they considered it an internal matter.