John McCain Urges U.S. to Be Tough on Myanmar Government 'Thugs'

Sen. John McCain said Saturday that both the United States and Myanmar's neighbors need to be tougher on the military junta responsible for this week's brutal crackdown on demonstrators.

"These thugs have started executing and killing people in the streets right and left," the Republican presidential hopeful said. "We should go to (The Association of Southeast Asian Nations) and say kick these guys out... We should be putting every sanction on them that we can think of. We should have every place in the world talking about how this kind of thing doesn't work anymore."

The demonstrations in Myanmar, also known as Burma, began last month, sparked by anger over massive fuel price hikes. The government admits to 10 deaths in the crackdown that began Wednesday, though opposition groups say up to 200 people were killed.

President Bush has imposed sanctions on key leaders in the Myanmar regime and the Southeast Asian organization to which McCain referred issued its sharpest-ever condemnation of the regime, calling the crackdown "repulsive."

McCain, speaking outside a supporter's oceanfront home, described his meeting 10 years ago with Aung San Suu Kyi, the Nobel Peace Prize laureate who has been under house arrest for years. He called her the most impressive person he has ever met and noted that she refused to leave Myanmar to see her dying husband in England because she would have been banned from returning.

"She is a woman that's so remarkable, it's hard for me to describe to you," he said.

McCain said later that he was not trying to conjure up the more than five years he spent as a prisoner of war in Vietnam.

"I don't think there's any comparison. This woman is a leader and inspiration to her nation. She won the Nobel Peace prize," he said. "Frankly, I never thought of any connection to me in telling that story."

McCain does highlight his war-hero biography in new ads being aired in New Hampshire that show him as a wounded Navy pilot answering questions from his prison bed and returning to the United States from Vietnam.

Such heavy advertising would not have been possible a few months ago, before McCain's broke campaign underwent major political, financial and organizational upheaval. A day before the end of the third financial quarter, McCain said he is satisfied with his fundraising levels.

"We're fine. We're doing what we need to do," he said. "I'm happy with where we are. Obviously, we had to fix the budget and we did, so I'm pleased."

Later, McCain spoke to about 200 people in Exeter, answering questions on immigration, Iraq, global warming and other topics. A student at nearby Phillips Exeter Academy asked him why he voted this week against legislation that would allow federal law enforcement to help states prosecute attacks on gays.

Under current federal law, hate crimes apply to acts of violence against individuals on the basis of race, religion, color or national origin. The bill would extend the hate crimes category to include sexual orientation, gender, gender identity or disability.

"I don't believe sexual orientation should be a factor of that decision making because frankly I don't see how that kind of thing is workable," McCain said. "I don't support it. I support equal opportunity, I support rights of everyone but I don't support the so-called hate crimes bill."

He also criticized President Bush for not accomplishing more during this week's two-day White-House sponsored conference on climate change. At the conference, Bush called for a new fund that would pay for clean-energy projects, with contributions from around the world.

"Climate change is real, we've got to do something about it, we cannot mortgage our children's futures," McCain said. "It is real. I am disappointed on the lack of specific action on the part of this administration."