News / USA

Obama Will Not Shy Away From Human Rights on Asia Tour

U.S. President Barack Obama gestures while addressing his first news conference since his re-election, at the White House in Washington, November 14,  2012.
U.S. President Barack Obama gestures while addressing his first news conference since his re-election, at the White House in Washington, November 14, 2012.
VOA News
White House officials are assuring critics that President Barack Obama will not ignore human rights concerns during his upcoming visit to Southeast Asia.

President Obama leaves Saturday for a three-day tour of Cambodia, Thailand and Burma. It is his first foreign trip since being re-elected, underscoring the importance of the administration's new focus on the region.

A highlight of the trip will be Obama's brief stop in Burma, the first ever visit by a U.S. president to the former military-ruled state.

Some rights groups object to the visit, including Human Rights Watch researcher Matthew Smith. He said the president should wait until more reforms are made.

"The risk of Obama visiting now, is that in effect, his presence alone will confer a certain amount of approval on the current government, which continues to violate human rights in a very serious way," he said.

Smith said he is most concerned that Burma has not yet released all of its political prisoners and has not intervened to stop the violence against minority Rohingya Muslims in western Rakhine state.

But national security adviser Tom Donilon says the trip will provide an opportunity for Obama to put pressure on Burmese President Thein Sein and others who may be reluctant to more reform.

"The president's visit this time reflects his conviction that engagement is the best way to encourage Burmese authorities to further action," Donilon explained."There is a lot more to be done, and we are not going to miss this moment, in terms of our opportunity to push this along and to try to lock in as much reform and lock in this path forward as best we can."

Since Burma's military rulers stepped aside last year, its new nominally civilian government has released some political prisoners, opened talks with ethnic rebels, and allowed opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi to enter parliament.

The changes come as the U.S. is expanding ties across the region as part of its "pivot" toward Asia.

But Danny Russel, a top Asia adviser in the White House, cautions against viewing President Obama's visit as a "victory celebration," saying the trip will be an effective tool for convincing Burmese leaders who are reluctant to reform.

Aides also say Obama will raise concerns about Cambodia's long-standing human rights abuses when he attends a meeting of regional leaders in Phnom Penh.

Samantha Power, a White House official in charge of human rights issues, says the president will urge Prime Minister Hun Sen to hold free and fair elections and end land seizures, among other issues.

This week, Human Rights Watch warned that Prime Minister Hun Sen, who has been in power for 27 years, will interpret Obama's visit as an endorsement and deepen his sense of inviolability if Obama does not speak out forcefully.

The New York-based group also wants President Obama to bring up human rights concerns with long-time U.S. ally Thailand. The rights watchdog says there are concerns about Thailand's continued restriction of free speech under lese majesties laws, military abuses against insurgents in the south, and inadequate protection of the country's large refugee population.

You May Like

Photogallery South Africa Bans Travelers From Ebola-stricken Countries

South Africans returning from affected West African countries will be thoroughly screened, required to fill out medical questionnaire, health minister says More

Multimedia UN Launches ‘Biggest Aid Operation in 30 Years’ in Iraq

Move aims to help thousands of Iraqi religious minorities who fled their homes as Kurdish, Iraqi government forces battle Sunni insurgents More

Video African Media Tries to Educate Public About Ebola

IT specialists, together with radio and TV reporters, are battling misinformation and prejudice about disease More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Gaza Conflict, Hamas Popularity Challenge Abbasi
X
Scott Stearns
August 21, 2014 9:20 PM
The Palestinian unity government of Mahmoud Abbas has failed to convince Hamas to agree to Egyptian-negotiated terms with Israel on a Gaza cease-fire. VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports on what the Gaza conflict means for President Abbas, with whom U.S. officials have worked for years on a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Video

Video Gaza Conflict, Hamas Popularity Challenge Abbas

The Palestinian unity government of Mahmoud Abbas has failed to convince Hamas to agree to Egyptian-negotiated terms with Israel on a Gaza cease-fire. VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports on what the Gaza conflict means for President Abbas, with whom U.S. officials have worked for years on a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Video

Video Nigeria's 'Nollywood' Movie Industry Rolls in High Gear

Twenty years after its birth in a video shop in Lagos, Nigeria's "Nollywood" is one of the most prolific film industries on earth. Despite low budgets and whirlwind production schedules, Nigerian films are wildly popular in Africa and industry professionals say they hope, in the future, their films will be as great in quality as they are in quantity. Heather Murdock has more for VOA from Lagos.
Video

Video UN Launches 'Biggest Aid Operation in 30 Years' in Iraq

The United Nations has launched what it describes as one of the biggest aid operations in 30 years in northern Iraq, as hundreds of thousands of refugees flee the extremist Sunni militant group calling itself the Islamic State. As Kurdish and Iraqi forces battle the Sunni insurgents, the fighting has forced more people to flee their homes. Kurdish authorities say the international community must act now to avert a humanitarian catastrophe. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Cambodian American Hip Hop Artist Sings of Personal Struggles

A growing underground movement of Cambodian American hip hop artists is rapping about the struggles of living in urban America. Most, if not all of them, are refugees or children of refugees who came to the United States from Cambodia to escape the Khmer Rouge genocide of the 1970s. Through their music, the artists hope to give voice to immigrants who have been struggling quietly for years. Elizabeth Lee reports from Long Beach, California.
Video

Video African Media Tries to Educate Public About Ebola

While the Ebola epidemic continues to claim lives in West Africa, information technology specialists, together with radio and TV reporters, are battling misinformation and prejudice about the disease - using social media to educate the public about the deadly virus. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Ferguson Calls for Justice as Anger, Violence Grips Community

Violence, anger and frustration continue to grip the small St. Louis suburb of Ferguson, Missouri. Protests broke out after a white police officer fatally shot an unarmed black teenager on August 9. The case has sparked outrage around the nation and prompted the White House to send U.S. Attorney Eric Holder to the small community of just over 20,000 people. VOA’s Mary Alice Salinas has more from Ferguson.
Video

Video Beheading Of US Journalist Breeds Outrage

U.S. and British authorities have launched an investigation into an Islamic State video showing the beheading of kidnapped American journalist James Foley by a militant with a British accent. The extremist group, which posted the video on the Internet Tuesday, said the murder was revenge for U.S. airstrikes on militant positions in Iraq - and has threatened to execute another American journalist it is holding. Henry Ridgwell has more from London.
Video

Video Family Robots - The Next Big Thing?

Robots that can help us with daily chores like cooking and cleaning are a long way off, but automatons that serve as family companions may be much closer. Researchers in the United States, France, Japan and other countries are racing to build robots that can entertain and perform some simpler tasks for us. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video In Ukraine, Fear and Distrust Remain Where Fighting has Stopped

As the Ukrainian military reclaims control of eastern cities from pro-Russian separatists, residents are getting a chance to rebuild their lives. VOA's Gabe Joselow reports from the town of Kramatorsk in Donetsk province, where a sense of fear is still in the air, and distrust of the government in Kyiv still runs deep.
Video

Video Five Patients Given Experimental Ebola Drug Said to Be Improving

The World Health Organization has approved the use of experimental treatments for Ebola patients in West Africa. The Ebola outbreak there is unprecedented, the disease deadly. The number of people who have died from Ebola has surpassed 1,200. VOA's Carol Pearson reports on the ethical considerations of allowing experimental drugs to be used.
Video

Video China Targets Overseas Assets of Corrupt Officials

As China presses forward with its anti-graft effort, authorities are targeting corrupt officials who have sent family members and assets overseas. The efforts have stirred up a debate at home on exactly how many officials take that route and how likely it is they will be caught. Rebecca Valli has this report.
Video

Video Leading The Fight Against Islamic State, Kurds Question Iraqi Future

Western countries including the United States have begun arming the Kurdish Peshmerga forces in northern Iraq to aid their battle against extremist Sunni militants from the Islamic State. But there are concerns that a heavily-armed Kurdistan Regional Government, or KRG, might seek to declare independence and cause the break-up of the Iraqi state. As Henry Ridgwell reports from London, the KRG says it will only seek greater autonomy from Baghdad.
Video

Video In Rural Kenya, Pressure Builds Against Female Circumcision

In some Kenyan communities, female genital mutilation remains a rite of passage. But activists are pushing back, with education for girls and with threats of punishment those who perform the circumcision. Mohammed Yusuf looks at the practice in the rural eastern community of Tharaka-Nithi.

AppleAndroid