News / Asia

Human Rights Issues, Burma Likely to Factor in Obama Asia Trip

U.S. officials say human rights issues are likely to be discussed during President Obama's upcoming visits next month to India and three other Asian democracies.

The first national election allowed by Burma's ruling military in two decades takes place on November 7, one day after President Obama arrives in India for a three-day stay at the beginning of his four nation Asian tour.

The United States, other governments, and human rights organizations say it's unlikely that the election in Burma can be free and fair.

Burmese democracy figure Aung San Suu Kyi, whose National League for Democracy (N.L.D.) won an overwhelming victory in a 1990 election, remains in house arrest. More than 2,000 political prisoners remain in jail.  

Burma's military formally dissolved the NLD earlier this year after it announced it would boycott the election. The military has also announced that foreign journalists will be not be allowed to cover the voting.

During a White House news briefing focusing on the Indian leg of President Obama's Asia trip, U.S. Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs William Burns was asked if Mr. Obama will address human rights issues with Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, and at other points on the Asia trip.

Burns repeated the U.S. position that based on everything seen so far, there are serious doubts about whether the November 7 election can be free and fair. He repeated Washington's call for the immediate release of Aung San Suu Kyi and political prisoners.

He was non-commital about what the president may specifically discuss with Prime Minister Singh, but said the overall U.S emphasis on human rights issues will continue.

"We have a very active dialogue with India about a whole range of regional issues and that does include Burma, and so again I can't predict exactly what the conversations are going to be, but I think you will continue to see a strong emphasis from the president and from the U.S. on human rights issues across Asia and the Pacific," he said.

Deputy National Security Council Adviser for Strategic Communication, Ben Rhodes, said it is not a "coincidence" that President Obama is visiting four Asian democracies, since a key objective of the trip is to underscore the success of democracy in Asia and around the world.

Rhodes said the U.S. will "speak specifically to human rights and democracy issues in India and every stop during the president's trip," and indicated that Burma is likely to come up at some point.

"While I can't pre-judge the outcome of that election, we have expressed concerns about it in ASEAN. We have expressed it in our bilateral channels to key governments in the region. If the election does not meet the kinds of standards that we would like to see it meet, as Bill [Undersecretary Burns] said every indication is that it won't, I am sure it will be something that will come up during the course of the trip," Rhodes said.

The remarks are the first indication of the degree to which the election in Burma and its outcome may come into play in discussions President Obama holds, either in India, which has been expanding economic and trade ties with Burma, and his next stops in Indonesia, South Korea and Japan.

The statements did little to clarify whether President Obama has moved closer to taking a step required under U.S. sanctions-related legislation -- appointing a special representative and policy coordinator for Burma.

Earlier this year, the White House said it expected such an appointment to be made "soon".  NSC official Rhodes said only that it is something the administration is looking at, but added he would have nothing to say on it at at present.

The Obama administration has pursued a policy of engagement with Burma's military, hoping this would help encourage change, achieve freedom for political prisoners and Aung San Suu Kyi, and help bring about a legitimate political dialogue in the country.

Earlier this year, the administration said it fully expects this process to be long and difficult and "remains committed to continuing the policy" beyond the November 7 election in Burma.

You May Like

IS Militants Release 49 Turkish Hostages

Turkey's state-run Anadolu news agency reports that no ransom was paid and no conditions accepted for the hostages' release; few details of the release are known More

Photogallery IS Attacks Send Thousands of Syrian Kurds Fleeing to Turkey

Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says more than 300 Kurdish fighters crossed into Syria from Turkey to defend a Kurdish area from attack by the Islamic militants More

3-day Lockdown to Fight Ebola Continues In Sierra Leone

Thousands of health workers are going door to door in the West African country of 6 million, informing people of how to avoid Ebola, handing out soap More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Migrants Caught in No-Man's Land Called Calaisi
X
Lisa Bryant
September 19, 2014 5:04 PM
The deaths of hundreds of migrants in the Mediterranean this week has only recast the spotlight on the perils of reaching Europe. And for those forunate enough to reach a place like Calais, France, only find that their problems aren't over. Lisa Bryant has the story.
Video

Video Migrants Caught in No-Man's Land Called Calais

The deaths of hundreds of migrants in the Mediterranean this week has only recast the spotlight on the perils of reaching Europe. And for those forunate enough to reach a place like Calais, France, only find that their problems aren't over. Lisa Bryant has the story.
Video

Video Westgate Siege Anniversary Brings Back Painful Memories

One year after it happened, the survivors of the terror attack on Nairobi's Westgate Shopping Mall still cannot shake the images of that tragic incident. For VOA, Mohammed Yusuf tells the story of victims still waiting for the answer to the question 'how could this happen?'
Video

Video Militant Assault in Syria Displaces Thousands of Kurds

A major assault by Islamic State militants on Kurds in Syria has sent a wave of new refugees to the Turkish border, where they were stopped by Turkish border security. Turkey is already hosting about 700,000 Syrian refugees who fled the civil war between the government and the opposition. But the government in Ankara has a history of strained relations with Turkey's Kurdish minority. Zlatica Hoke reports Turkey is asking for international help.
Video

Video CERN Accelerator Back in Business

The long upgrade of the Large Hadron Collider is over. The scientific instrument responsible for the discovery of the Higgs boson -- the so-called "God particle" -- is being brought up to speed in time for this month's 60th anniversary of the European Organization for Nuclear Research, known by its French acronym CERN. Physicists hope the accelerator will help them uncover more secrets about the origins of the universe. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Whaling Summit Votes to Uphold Ban on Japan Whale Hunt

The International Whaling Commission, meeting in Slovenia, has voted to uphold a court ruling banning Japan from hunting whales in the Antarctic Ocean. Conservationists hailed the ruling as a victory, but Tokyo says it will submit revised plans for a whale hunt in 2015. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Russian Economy Reeling After New Western Sanctions

A new wave of Western sanctions is hitting Russia’s economy hard. State-owned energy firms continue to bleed profits and Russia’s national currency plunged to a new low this week after the U.S. and the European Union announced new sanctions to punish Russia's aggressive stance in eastern Ukraine. But as Mil Arcega reports, the sanctions could also prove costly for European and American companies.
Video

Video Belgian Researchers Discover Way to Block Cancer Metastasis

Cancer remains one of the deadliest diseases, despite many new methods to combat it. Modern medicine has treatments to prevent the growth of primary tumor cells. But most cancer deaths are caused by metastasis, the stage when primary tumor cells change and move to other parts of the body. A team of Belgian scientists says it has found a way to prevent that process. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Mogadishu's Flood of Foreign Workers Leaves Somalis Out of Work

Unemployment and conflict has forced many young Somalians out of the country in search of a better life. But a newfound stability in the once-lawless nation has created hope — and jobs — which, some say, are too often being filled by foreigners. Abdulaziz Billow reports from Mogadishu.
Video

Video A Dinosaur Fit for Land and Water

Residents and tourists in Washington D.C. can now examine a life-size replica of an unusual dinosaur that lived almost a hundred million years ago in northern Africa. Scientists say studying the behemoth named Spinosaurus helps them better understand how some prehistoric animals adapted to life on land and in water. The Spinosaurus replica is on display at the National Geographic museum. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Iraqi Kurdistan Church Helps Christian Children Cope find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil

In the past six weeks, tens of thousands of Iraqi Christians have been forced to flee their homes by Islamic State militants and find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil. Despite U.S. airstrikes in the region, the prospect of people returning home is still very low and concerns are starting to grow over the impact this is having on the displaced youth. Sebastian Meyer reports from Irbil on how one church is coping.
Video

Video NASA Picks Boeing, SpaceX to Carry Astronauts Into Space

The U.S. space agency, NASA, has chosen Boeing and SpaceX companies to build the next generation of spacecraft that will carry U.S. astronauts to the International Space Station by the year 2017. The deal with private industry enables NASA to end its dependence on Russia to send space crews into low Earth orbit and back. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Future of Ukrainian Former President's Estate Uncertain

More than six months after Ukraine's former President Viktor Yanukovych fled revolution to Russia, authorities have yet to gain control of his palatial estate. Protesters occupy the grounds and opened it to tourists but they are also refusing to turn it over to the state. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Mezhigirya, just north of Kyiv.


Carnage and mayhem are part of daily life in northern Nigeria, the result of a terror campaign by the Islamist group Boko Haram. Fears are growing that Nigeria’s government may not know how to counter it, and may be making things worse. More

AppleAndroid