US First Lady Laura Bush has conferred an award honoring the women of military-ruled Myanmar in their determined battle to restore democracy and human rights in the Southeast Asian state.
Democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi, a Nobel laureate who has spent more than 12 years under house arrest since 1989, is spearheading the campaign for reforms in Myanmar.
The award was given by President George W Bush's wife late yesterday on behalf of Vital Voices Global Partnership, a non-governmental organisation that identifies, trains, and empowers emerging women leaders and social entrepreneurs around the globe.
Charm Tong, a member of a women's action group from Myanmar's Shan state where rights groups had accused the military of systematically raping tribal women, received the award on behalf of her compatriots.
Another Myanmar human rights award recipient, Khin Ohmar, coordinator of the Asia Pacific People's Partnership on Burma, could not attend the ceremony due to work commitments. Burma is the previous name of Myanmar.
"We pay tribute to the people of Burma - especially the women, who have inspired the world with their grace and courage in the face of brutality," Laura Bush said at the awards presentation ceremony.
Since the military's bloody crackdown on peaceful protests led by monks in October last year, the first lady has personally campaigned to press for democratic rights for the people of Myanmar.
"Unarmed monks who led the demonstrations were beaten, arrested, and killed. Bullets were sprayed into crowds of peaceful protesters, and thousands were imprisoned under shameful conditions," she said, recollecting the crackdown.