News / Asia

    Obama Faces Tough Questions on Malaysia Rights

    In Malaysia, Obama Emphasizes Strong Ties with Longtime Regional Partneri
    X
    Luis Ramirez
    April 27, 2014 3:13 PM
    President Barack Obama has visited Malaysia and next heads to the Philippines, where U.S. officials are scheduled to sign a defense agreement to rotate American troops and equipment into Philippine military bases. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez is traveling with the president and has this report.
    In Malaysia, Obama Emphasizes Strong Ties with Longtime Regional Partner
    Luis Ramirez
    U.S. President Barack Obama is winding down a visit to Malaysia, where he faced tough questions Sunday on political freedoms in the country.  Next, the president heads to the Philippines, where U.S. officials confirm they will sign an agreement to rotate U.S. troops into Philippine military bases.   

    After a lavish welcome on Saturday, President Obama on Sunday toured Malaysia's large National Mosque, which sits on more than five hectares and holds up to 15,000 people.

    The mosque visit was a gesture of goodwill toward Malaysia's predominantly Muslim population. Obama sought to portray the country as a model of democracy and a model for coexistence between a Muslim majority and the sizable minorities of  Buddhists, Christians and Hindus.

    Earlier, Obama held talks with Malaysia's Prime Minister Najib Razak on the third leg of a four-nation tour of Asia - the first trip to the Southeast Asian nation by a sitting U.S. president in nearly five decades.

    At a joint news conference Sunday, Razak expressed his gratitude for American help in the search for missing Malaysia Airline flight 370. Obama pledged to continue providing all the assistance possible in the search for the plane, which has been missing for seven weeks.

    The two leaders said they had agreed to upgrade upper-level ties to a "comprehensive partnership," and to cooperate on the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade pact and the nuclear Proliferation Security Initiative, both of which Malaysia has opposed in the past.

    Human rights

    Not at the forefront of the president's visit were discussions on what critics say are the Malaysian government attempts to clamp down on press freedom and quash the opposition.  Obama's schedule did not include a meeting with opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim. The government has for years been pursuing sodomy charges against Anwar in what his supporters say is an illegitimate attempt to keep him from running for office.  

    At joint briefing with Razak, Obama was asked why he did not meet with Anwar.  

    “The fact that I've not met with Anwar is in and of itself not indicative of a lack of concern given the fact that there are a lot of people I don't meet with and opposition leaders that I don't meet with, and that doesn't mean I'm not concerned about them,"  Obama said.

    The U.S. president said he did raise the issue of civil liberties with Prime Minister Najib.   

    “What I have shared with the prime minister is the core belief that societies that respect rule of law, that respect freedom of speech, that respect the right of opposition to oppose even when it drives you crazy, even when it's inconvenient, respect for freedom of assembly, the respect for people of different races and different faiths and different political philosophies, that those values are at the core of who the U.S. is but also are a pretty good gauge of whether society is going to be successful in the 21st century or not," said Obama.

    On the missing Malaysia Airlines flight, Obama said the U.S. remains absolutely committed to providing whatever resources it can to facilitate the search.

    Historical visit

    Lyndon Johnson was the last U.S. president to travel to Malaysia in 1966 during the Vietnam War, when the United States was working to maintain support among its Southeast Asian allies against the spread of communism.  Now, Obama has a different challenge in the region:  the threat of China's expanding military and - primarily - its growing assertiveness in the East and South China Seas, where it has competing territorial claims with a number of countries.

    Those claims and the threats they pose to regional security are the main theme in the Philippines, his fourth stop on this Asian tour. The Philippines and China are locked in a dispute over islands in the South China Sea.  

    The major item on the president's agenda in Manila is an agreement on enhanced defense cooperation to rotate U.S. troops into the country and station them temporarily on Philippine military bases.  It would allow for the largest U.S. military presence in the country since the Philippines ended the leases on U.S. bases more than two decades ago.

    The agreement says U.S. troops can come only by invitation of the Philippine government.  But critics say the deal violates Philippine sovereignty and have staged demonstrations ahead of Obama's arrival.

    You May Like

    Video Rubio Looks to Surge in New Hampshire

    Republican presidential candidate has moved into second place in several recent surveys and appears to be gaining ground on longtime frontrunner Donald Trump

    UN Calls for Global Ban on Female Genital Mutilation

    Recent UNICEF report finds at least 200 million girls and women alive today have undergone female genital mutilation in 30 countries

    UN Pilots New Peace Approach in CAR

    Approach launched in northern town of Kaga Bandoro, where former combatants of mainly Muslim Seleka armed group and Christian and animist anti-Balaka movement are being paid to do community work

    This forum has been closed.
    Comment Sorting
    Comments
         
    by: Irwin Graulich from: New York
    April 28, 2014 6:47 AM
    Only a true leftist can compare the morality of the United States with despicable Malaysia.

    by: Abraham from: Lawal
    April 28, 2014 4:59 AM
    Every one living in Malaysia needs to read this from me. i am a foreigner but i have so many good friend Malay. most of them tell me that their parent has been the one advising and scudding them never to see Black people as one. they call us all names and kill us at every given opportunity. if the Malaysia Govt knows he will not give foreigner job to do why then will they give us VISA or ask us to come and study here. if a child who is here and wants to work but can not due to stupid and wicked rules from the Govt. why wouldn't the foreigner look for other means to make money.do you want us to suffer and die. give us job opportunity and watch us work and watch they rapid change and reduction of crime in Malaysia. Obama has adviced you Najid go home and do your assignment. i love your government and i am ready to abide by its constitution..been vicious to strangers or non-Muslim only keeps you stagnant. i am here to defend my country and massive killing of my brothers. i am not in support of illegal immigrants. polis collect money from foreigner at every junction including me. i have given money several to polis men even with 1 year Malaysian passport. Allah knows we are been brutally hurt here. if you want all black to go back you have to give them compensation.
    In Response

    by: Mustapa from: kl
    April 29, 2014 5:05 AM
    Yeah, ur wrong, i am malay. Never seen my parent told anything u claimed. Even me make a good friend with others. In Malaysia its not so much a problem of racism actually, its a problem of trust. Its been long since malaysian being manipulated by political media to be scared to each other. Same goes for foreigner not only malay any races in malaysia their parent might told something like that? why? the lack of trust to foreigner. I've had friend who unfortunate enough to get conned by foreigner. Again its a problem of trust. There is a old saying that you must earn the trust.

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    German Artists to Memorialize Refugees With Life Jacket Exhibiti
    X
    Hamada Elsaram
    February 05, 2016 4:30 PM
    Sold in every kind of shop in some Turkish port towns, life jackets have become a symbol of the refugee crisis that brought a million people to Europe in 2015.  On the shores of Lesbos, Greece, German artists collect discarded life jackets as they prepare an art installation they plan to display in Germany.  For VOA, Hamada Elrasam has this report from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video German Artists to Memorialize Refugees With Life Jacket Exhibit

    Sold in every kind of shop in some Turkish port towns, life jackets have become a symbol of the refugee crisis that brought a million people to Europe in 2015.  On the shores of Lesbos, Greece, German artists collect discarded life jackets as they prepare an art installation they plan to display in Germany.  For VOA, Hamada Elrasam has this report from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video E-readers Help Ease Africa's Book Shortage

    Millions of people in Africa can't read, and there's a chronic shortage of books. A non-profit organization called Worldreader is trying to help change all that one e-reader at a time. VOA’s Deborah Block tells us about a girls' school in Nairobi, Kenya where Worldreader is making a difference.
    Video

    Video Genius Lets World Share Its Knowledge

    Inspired by crowdsourcing companies like Wikipedia, Genius allows anyone to edit anything on the web, using its web annotation tool
    Video

    Video Former Drug CEO Martin Shkreli Angers US Lawmakers

    A former U.S. pharmaceutical business executive has angered lawmakers by refusing to explain why he raised the price of a life-saving pill by 5,000 percent. Martin Shkreli was removed from a congressional hearing on Thursday after citing his Fifth Amendment right to stay silent. Zlatica Hoke has more.
    Video

    Video Super Bowl TV Commercials are Super Business for Advertisers

    The Super Bowl, the championship clash between the two top teams in American Football, is the most-watched sporting event of the year, and advertisers are lining up and paying big bucks to get their commercials on the air. In fact, the TV commercials during the Super Bowl have become one of the most anticipated and popular features of the event. VOA's Brian Allen has a sneak peek of what you can expect to see when the big game goes to commercial break, and the real entertainment begins.
    Video

    Video In Philippines, Mixed Feelings About Greater US Military Presence

    In the Philippines, some who will be directly affected by a recent Supreme Court decision clearing the way for more United States troop visits are having mixed reactions.  The increased rotations come at a time when the Philippines is trying to build up its military in the face of growing maritime assertiveness from China.  From Bahile, Palawan on the coast of the South China Sea, Simone Orendain has this story.
    Video

    Video Microcephaly's Connection to Zika: Guilty Until Proven Innocent

    The Zika virus rarely causes problems for the people who get it, but it seems to be having a devastating impact on babies whose mothers are infected with Zika. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
    Video

    Video Solar Innovation Provides Cheap, Clean Energy to Kenya Residents

    In Kenya, a company called M-Kopa Solar is providing clean energy to more than 300,000 homes across East Africa by allowing customers to "pay-as-you-go" via their cell phones. As Lenny Ruvaga reports from Kangemi, customers pay a small deposit for a solar unit and then pay less than a dollar a day to get clean energy to light up their homes or businesses.
    Video

    Video Stunning Artworks Attract Record Crowds, Thanks to Social Media

    A new exhibit at the oldest art museum in America is shattering attendance records. Thousands of visitors are lining up to see nine giant works of art that have gotten a much-deserved shot of viral marketing. The 150-year-old Smithsonian American Art Museum has never had a response quite like this. VOA's Julie Taboh reports.
    Video

    Video Apprenticeships Put Americans on Path Back to Work

    Trying to get more people into the U.S. workforce, the Obama administration last year announced $175 million in grants towards apprenticeship programs. VOA White House correspondent Aru Pande went inside one training center outside of Washington that has gained national recognition for helping put people on the path to employment.
    Video

    Video New Material May Reduce Concussion Effects

    As the 2016 National Football League season reaches its summit at the Super Bowl this coming Sunday (2/7), scientists are trying to learn how to more effectively protect football players from dangerous and damaging concussions. Researchers at Cardiff and Cambridge Universities say their origami-based material may solve the problem. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Saudi Arabian Women's Sports Chip Away at Stereotypes

    Saudi Arabian female athletes say that sports are on the front line of busting traditions that quash women’s voices, both locally and internationally. In their hometown of Jeddah, a group of basketball players say that by connecting sports to health issues, they are encouraging women and girls to get out of their homes and participate in public life. VOA’s Heather Murdock reports.
    Video

    Video A Year Later, Fortunes Mixed for Syrians Forging New Lives in Berlin

    In April of last year, VOA followed the progress of six young Syrian refugees -- four brothers and their two friends -- as they made their way from Libya to Italy by boat, and eventually to Germany. Reporter Henry Ridgwell caught up with the refugees again in Berlin, as they struggle to forge new lives amid the turmoil of Europe's refugee crisis.
    Video

    Video Zika Virus May be Hard to Stop

    With the Zika virus spreading rapidly, the World Health Organization Monday declared Zika a global health emergency. As Alberto Pimienta reports, for many governments and experts, the worst is yet to come.