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 Video Claims to Show Shi'ite Forces in Iraq Executing Sunni Boy

While not yet independently confirmed, brutal killing already has gotten attention of Islamic State followers on social media More

After Six Years, Little Change for Niger Delta's Former Militants

Nigerians who laid down arms in exchange for government amnesty subsidies fear program may end with upcoming presidential elections More

Vietnam Pushes for More Educated Drivers to Curb Road Deaths

Transportation officials hope that making a greater effort to get drivers to learn the rules of the road will reduce fatal crashes More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
NASA Spacecraft Approaches a Dwarf Planeti
X
George Putic
March 04, 2015 8:51 PM
NASA’s Dawn spacecraft will make history on Friday, March 6, when it becomes the first man-made object to orbit a dwarf planet named Ceres. It is located in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, almost 500 million kilometers from Earth. Among other objectives, Dawn will try to examine two mysterious bright white spots detected on the planet’s surface. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video NASA Spacecraft Approaches a Dwarf Planet

NASA’s Dawn spacecraft will make history on Friday, March 6, when it becomes the first man-made object to orbit a dwarf planet named Ceres. It is located in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, almost 500 million kilometers from Earth. Among other objectives, Dawn will try to examine two mysterious bright white spots detected on the planet’s surface. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Young Muslims Radicalized Online

Young Muslims are being radicalized ‘in their bedrooms’ through direct contact with Islamic State or ISIL fighters via the Internet, according to terror experts. There are growing concerns that authorities and Internet providers are not doing enough to counter online extremism - which analysts say is spread by a prolific network of online supporters around the world. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video African Americans Recall 1960's Fight For Voting Rights

U.S. President Barack Obama and thousands of people will gather in the small southern U.S. city of Selma, Alabama, Saturday, March 7th to commemorate the 50th anniversary of a historic voting rights march that became known as “Bloody Sunday." VOA’s Chris Simkins traveled to Alabama and introduces us to some of the foot soldiers of the voting rights struggles of the 1960’s.
Video

Video Positive Messaging Transforms Ethiopia's Image

Ethiopia was once known for famine and droughts. Now, headlines more often point to its fast-growing economy and its emergence as a regional peacemaker. How has Addis Ababa changed the narrative? VOA's Marthe van der Wolf reports.
Video

Video Cyber War Rages Between Iran, US

A newly published report indicates Iran and the United States have increased their cyber attacks on each other, even as their top diplomats are working toward an agreement to guarantee Iran does not develop a nuclear weapon and to free Iran from international sanctions. The development is part of a growing global trend. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video Answers Elude Families of MH370 Passengers

For the families on board Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, an airline official’s statement nearly one year ago that the plane had lost contact with air traffic control at 2:40 AM is the only thing that remains confirmed. William Ide reports.
Video

Video Land Disputes Arise Amid Uganda Oil Boom

Ugandan police say there has been a sharp increase in land disputes, with 10 new cases being reported each day. The claims come amid an oil boom as investors appear to be cashing in by selling parcels of land to multiple buyers. Meanwhile, the people who have been living on the land for decades are chased away, sometimes with a heavy hand. VOA's Serginho Roosblad reports.
Video

Video In Russia, Many Doubt Opposition Leader's Killer Will Be Found

The funeral has been held in Moscow for Boris Nemtsov, the opposition leader who was assassinated late Friday just meters from the Kremlin. Nemtsov joins a growing list of outspoken critics of Russia under the leadership of President Vladimir Putin who are believed to have been murdered for their work. VOA’s Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
Video

Video Simulated Astronauts Get Taste of Mars, in Hawaii

For generations, people have dreamed of traveling to Mars to explore Earth's closest planetary neighbor. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports that while space agencies like NASA are planning manned missions to the planet, some volunteers in Hawaii are learning how humans will cope with months in isolation on a Mars base.
Video

Video Destruction of Iraq Artifacts Shocks Archaeologists

The city of Mosul was once one of the most culturally rich and religiously diverse cities in Iraq. That tradition is under attack by members of the Islamic State who have made Mosul their capital city. The Mosul Museum is the latest target of the group’s campaign of terror and destruction, and is of grave concern to archaeologists around the world. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports.
Video

Video Smartphones May Help in Diagnosing HIV

Diagnosing infections such as HIV requires expensive clinical tests, making the procedure too costly for many poor patients or those living in remote areas. But a new technology called lab-on-a-chip may make the tests more accessible to many. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Afghan Refugees Complain of Harassment in Pakistan

Afghan officials have expressed concern over reports of a crackdown on Afghan refugees in Pakistan following the Peshawar school attack in December. Reports of mass arrests and police harassment coupled with fear of an uncertain future are making life difficult for a population that fled its homeland to escape war. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports from Islamabad.

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More