DALLAS - Laura Bush, a longtime advocate for free elections in Myanmar, spoke for the first time Friday with Aung San Suu Kyi, the isolated Asian country's pro-democracy leader, who was released last month after more than seven years of house arrest.
"It was thrilling" to finally get to speak to Suu Kyi by phone, the former first lady said. "I was especially happy to hear how strong her voice was, and how enthusiastic."
Suu Kyi, who won the 1991 Nobel Peace Prize for her nonviolent struggle for democracy, was first arrested by Myanmar's military junta in 1989 and spent 15 of the last 21 years in detention.
Bush has advocated for free elections in Myanmar and spoken out many times about Suu Kyi's plight, raising the issue at U.N. meetings and with U.S. senators.
Bush said Suu Kyi told her that during her house arrest, she listened to the Voice of America on the radio and was aware of how much support she had around the world. She said she also knew of a 2008 visit that Bush and her daughter Barbara made to a refugee camp in Thailand for political refugees from Myanmar.
"She was very forthcoming, but we both assumed the call was bugged," Bush said. "She was circumspect and so was I."
Suu Kyi's release came after Myanmar's first election in 20 years, which was widely seen as a sham. Her National League for Democracy party won the 1990 election in a landslide, but the military refused to hand over power and instead clamped down on opponents.
Bush said it appeared the government was allowing Suu Kyi to conduct the meetings and phone calls she wants.