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 One Year After Thai Coup, No End in Sight for Military Rule

Since carrying out the May 22, 2014 coup, the general has retired from the military but is still firmly in charge More

Goodbye, New York

This is what the fastest-growing big cities in America have in common More

Job-Seeking Bangladeshis Risk Lives to Find Work

The number of Bangladeshi migrants on smugglers’ boats bound for Southeast Asian countries has soared in the past two years More

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.
Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthroughi
X
May 22, 2015 10:23 AM
Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthrough

Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Europe Follows US Lead in Tackling ‘Conflict Minerals’

Metals mined from conflict zones in places like the Democratic Republic of Congo are often sold by warlords to buy weapons. This week European lawmakers voted to force manufacturers to prove that their supply chains are not inadvertently fueling conflicts and human rights abuses. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Class Tackles Questions of Race, Discrimination

Unrest in some U.S. cities is more than just a trending news item at Ladue Middle School in St. Louis, Missouri. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, it’s a focus of a multicultural studies class engaging students in wide-ranging discussions about racial tensions and police aggression.
Video

Video Mind-Controlled Prosthetics Are Getting Closer

Scientists and engineers are making substantial advances towards the ultimate goal in prosthetics – creation of limbs that can be controlled by the wearer’s mind. Thanks to sophisticated sensors capable of picking up the brain’s signals, an amputee in Iceland is literally bringing us one step closer to that goal. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Afghan Economy Sinks As Foreign Troops Depart

As international troops prepare to leave Afghanistan, and many foreign aid groups follow, Afghans are grappling with how the exodus will affect the country's fragile economy. Ayesha Tanzeem reports from the Afghan capital, Kabul.
Video

Video Poverty, Ignorance Force Underage Girls Into Marriage

The recent marriage of a 17-year old Chechen girl to a local police chief who was 30 years older and already had a wife caused an outcry in Russia and beyond. The bride was reportedly forced to marry and her parents were intimidated into giving their consent. The union spotlighted yet again the plight of many underage girls in developing countries. Zlatica Hoke reports poverty, ignorance and fear are behind the practice, especially in Asia and Africa.
Video

Video South Korea Marks Gwangju Uprising Anniversary

South Korea this week marked the 35th anniversary of a protest that turned deadly. The Gwangju Uprising is credited with starting the country’s democratic revolution after it was violently quelled by South Korea’s former military rulers. But as Jason Strother reports, some observers worry that democracy has recently been eroded.
Video

Video California’s Water System Not Created To Handle Current Drought

The drought in California is moving into its fourth year. While the state's governor is mandating a reduction in urban water use, most of the water used in California is for agriculture. But both city dwellers and farmers are feeling the impact of the drought. Some experts say the state’s water system was not created to handle long periods of drought. Elizabeth Lee reports from Ventura County, an agricultural region just northwest of Los Angeles.
Video

Video How to Clone a Mammoth: The Science of De-Extinction

An international team of scientists has sequenced the complete genome of the woolly mammoth. Led by the Swedish Museum of Natural History in Stockholm, the work opens the door to recreate the huge herbivore, which last roamed the Earth 4,000 years ago. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble considers the science of de-extinction and its place on the planet
Video

Video Blind Boy Defines His Life with Music

Cole Moran was born blind. He also has cognitive delays and other birth defects. He has to learn everything by ear. Nevertheless, the 12-year-old has had an insatiable love for music since he was born. VOA’s June Soh introduces us to the young phenomenal harmonica player.

VOA Blogs