Human rights should top Obama-ASEAN summit: HRW

Last Updated: Friday, November 13, 2009 - 11:58

Singapore: Barack Obama must address "rampant" rights abuses in Myanmar and across Southeast Asia during the first summit between a US President and regional leaders this weekend, campaigners said on Friday.
"Obama should use his first trip to Southeast Asia as president to put human rights on the ASEAN agenda," said Elaine Pearson, deputy Asia director at Human Rights Watch, referring to the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.

"Burma (Myanmar) is the obvious place to start, but media repression and unpunished rights violations are rampant throughout the region," she said in a statement.

Obama is due to hold an unprecedented meeting on Sunday with the 10 ASEAN leaders including the Prime Minister of military-ruled Myanmar, Thein Sein, following an Asia-Pacific summit in Singapore.

The US administration is pursuing a new approach of engagement with the isolated state, while vowing to keep sanctions in place until Myanmar makes significant strides towards democracy.

"ASEAN leaders have long sent mixed messages on Burma, so Obama should encourage them to unite in a strong statement of support for real democratic reforms," Pearson said.

"All ASEAN countries should oppose repression in Burma and adopt basic refugee protections to promote the rights of the Burmese people."

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First Published: Friday, November 13, 2009 - 11:58

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