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

    Video Democrats Clinton, Kaine Offer 'Very Different Vision' Than Trump

    In a jab at Trump, Clinton says her team wants to 'build bridges, not walls'; Obama Hails Kaine's record; Trump calls Kaine a 'job-killer'

    Turkey Wants Pakistan to Close Down institutions, Businesses Linked to Gulen

    Thousands of Pakistani students are enrolled in Gulen's commercial network of around two dozen institutions operating in Pakistan for over two decades

    AU Passport A Work in Progress

    Who will get the passport and what the benefits are still need to be worked out

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    In State of Emergency, Turkey’s Erdogan Focuses on Spiritual Movementi
    X
    July 22, 2016 11:49 AM
    The state of emergency that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has declared is giving him even more power to expand a purge that has seen an estimated 60,000 people either arrested or suspended from their jobs. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports from Istanbul.
    Video

    Video In State of Emergency, Turkey’s Erdogan Focuses on Spiritual Movement

    The state of emergency that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has declared is giving him even more power to expand a purge that has seen an estimated 60,000 people either arrested or suspended from their jobs. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports from Istanbul.
    Video

    Video Scientists in Poland Race to Save Honeybees

    Honeybees are in danger worldwide. Causes of what's known as colony collapse disorder range from pesticides and loss of habitat to infections. But scientists in Poland say they are on track to finding a cure for one of the diseases. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Wall Already Runs Along Parts of US-Mexico Border

    The Republican Party’s presidential nominee, Donald Trump, gained the support of many voters by saying he would build a wall to keep undocumented immigrants and drugs from coming across the border from Mexico. Critics have called his idea impractical and offensive to Mexico, while supporters say such a bold approach is needed to control the border. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from the border town of Nogales, Arizona.
    Video

    Video New HIV Tests Emphasize Rapid Results

    As the global fight against AIDS intensifies, activists have placed increasing importance on getting people to know their HIV status. Some companies are developing new HIV testing methods designed to be quick, easy and accurate. Thuso Khumalo looks at the latest methods, presented at the International AIDS conference in Durban, South Africa.
    Video

    Video African Youth with HIV Urge More Support

    HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, is the top killer of teens in sub-Saharan Africa. But many youths say their experience with the virus is unique and needs to be addressed differently than the adult epidemic. VOA South African Correspondent Anita Powell reports.
    Video

    Video Poor Residents in Cleveland Not Feeling High Hopes of Republican Convention

    With the Republican Party's National Convention underway in Cleveland, Ohio, delegates and visitors are gathered in the host city's downtown - waiting to hear from the party's presidential candidate, Donald Trump. But a few kilometers from the convention's venue, Cleveland's poorest residents are not convinced Trump or his policies will make a difference in their lives. VOA's Ramon Taylor spoke with some of these residents as well as some of the Republican delegates and filed this report.
    Video

    Video Pop-Up Art Comes to Your Living Room, Backyard and Elsewhere

    Around the world, independent artists and musicians wrestle with a common problem: where to exhibit or perform? Traditional spaces such as museums and galleries are reserved for bigger names, and renting a space is not feasible for many. Enter ArtsUp, which connects artists with venue owners. Whether it’s a living room, restaurant, office or even a boat, pop-up events are bringing music and art to unexpected places. Tina Trinh has more.
    Video

    Video With Yosemite as Backdrop, Obama Praises National Parks

    Last month, President Barack Obama and his family visited some of the most beautiful national parks in the U.S. Using the majestic backdrop of a towering waterfall in California's Yosemite National Park, Obama praised the national park system which celebrates its 100th anniversary this year. He talked about the importance of America’s “national treasures” and the need to protect them from climate change and other threats. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
    Video

    Video Counter-Islamic State Coalition Plots Next Steps

    As momentum shifts against Islamic State in Iraq, discussions are taking place about the next steps for driving the terrorist group from its final strongholds. Secretary of State John Kerry is hosting a counter-IS meeting at the State Department, a day after defense ministers from more than 30 countries reviewed and agreed upon a course of action. VOA Pentagon correspondent Carla Babb reports.
    Video

    Video Russia's Participation at Brazil Olympic Games Still In Question

    The International Olympic Committee has delayed a decision on whether to ban all Russian teams from competing in next month's Olympic Games in Brazil over allegations of an elaborate doping scheme. The World Anti-Doping Agency recently released an independent report alleging widespread doping by Russian athletes at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi. So far, only Russian track and field athletes have been barred from the Summer Games in Brazil. VOA's Zlatica Hoke has more.
    Video

    Video Scotland’s Booming Whisky Industry Fears Brexit Hangover

    After Britain’s vote to leave the European Union, Scotland’s government wants to break away from the United Kingdom – fearing the nation’s exports are at risk. Among the biggest of these is whisky. Henry Ridgwell reports on a time of turmoil for those involved in the ancient art of distilling Scotland’s most famous product.
    Video

    Video Millennials Could Determine Who Wins Race to White House

    With only four months to go until Americans elect a new president, one group of voters is getting a lot more attention these days: those ages 18 to 35, a generation known as millennials. It’s a demographic that some analysts say could have the power to decide the 2016 election. But a lot depends on whether they actually turn out to vote. VOA’s Alexa Lamanna reports.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora