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Firts Lady Meets AIDS Patients and

Subject: Firts Lady Meets AIDS Patients and Urges SLORC to Talk with Suu

 .c The Associated Press 


Associated Press Writer 

CHIANG MAI, Thailand (AP) -- First lady Hillary Rodham Clinton gave comfort
today to an 18-year-old girl forced into prostitution and now dying of AIDS. 

On the second day of her two-day tour of northern Thailand, an area ravaged
by AIDS and the sale of girls into sexual slavery, Mrs. Clinton toured a
shelter founded by two American missionaries that houses 151 girls from
ethnic hill tribes. 

The girls at the New Life Center are either at risk of being sold into
Thailand's huge sex industry by their parents, who are seeking income for
either survival or status, or they have already been rescued from brothels or
quasi-prostitution as restaurant hostesses. The center tries to educate them
and give them vocational training. 

Mrs. Clinton was welcomed by 30 girls, some wearing traditional black garb
and elaborate silver-spangled hats. Mrs. Clinton joked that she couldn't
perform their complicated dances of greeting, then joined a panel discussion
with the directors and some of the girls. 

``When you sell a young girl, that brings a very limited benefit for a few
years,'' Mrs. Clinton said. ``When you educate a girl, that brings a lifetime
of benefit to a family.'' 

As she left, Mrs. Clinton walked over to a wheelchair-bound girl named Mi Cha
Ach Mae, who resides in the center's hospice for AIDS patients and is in the
final stages of the disease. The girl was sold by her parents as a house maid
when she was 10 and was eventually forced into prostitution. 

Mrs. Clinton touched her on the wrist and said a few words of encouragement.
The girl pressed her hands together in a prayer position and nodded, the
traditional Thai gesture of respect. 

The center was founded by American Baptist missionaries Paul and Elaine
Lewis, who worked for more than 40 years with the Lahu and Akha people, who
live by subsistence agriculture in remote areas and have few survival tools
in Thailand's rapidly modernizing society. 

In a speech later at Chiang Mai University, Mrs. Clinton urged Burma's
military regime to open a serious dialogue with Nobel Peace laureate and
pro-democracy movement leader Aung San Suu Kyi. The ruling junta in Burma,
Thailand's western neighbor, has recently stepped up a crackdown on Suu Kyi's

Mrs. Clinton said Thailand, Washington's strongest ally in Southeast Asia,
had shown an ``enlightened example'' by providing a haven for students and
minority groups fleeing repression in Burma. 

``We all hope that Burmese refugees will be able to cross back to their
homeland soon,'' she said, ``but such an outcome depends on real political
dialogue, and that dialogue must be serious and must commence between Aung
San Suu Kyi and the military regime in Burma.'' 

Meanwhile, in Bangkok, exiled Burmese students delivered a letter to the U.S.
Embassy urging President Clinton to use his influence with Burma's neighbors
to ``clarify the policy of the United States towards the Burmese

Clinton was joining his wife tonight, after the Asia-Pacific Economic
Cooperation summit in the Philippines, for the first state visit to Thailand
by a U.S. president since 1969. 

On Sunday, Mrs. Clinton inspected other anti-prostitution projects. 

Earlier in the day, Mrs. Clinton inspected a U.S.-aided program in Chiang Rai
province that has provided scholarships, vocational training and jobs to some
1,200 girls to give families that might sell their daughters an alternative
source of income. 

Mrs. Clinton toured a school that extends the girls' education after
mandatory schooling stops at 12 -- an age when many are bought by middlemen
for delivery into the garish brothels of Bangkok and elsewhere. Many die of
AIDS. Thailand has an estimated 500,000 to 700,000 prostitutes. 

Girls can be sold for $1,000 and send remittances home to their parents
afterward. Having a daughter as a prostitute can mean the difference between
poverty and a new home, motorcycle and status.