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Michelle Obama
Indian President Pranab Mukherjee stands alongside US President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama as they greet Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi (R) during a receiving line prior to a State Dinner at Rashtrapati Bhawan, the Presidential Palace, in New Delhi, India, January 25, 2015. AFP PHOTO / SAUL LOEB

Michelle Obama to raise rights in Cambodia

US first lady Michelle Obama will address political and human rights issues when she visits Cambodia this week on a trip to promote girls’ education, the White House said on Monday.

Obama will arrive in Siem Reap this Friday and leave on Sunday after a stop in Japan.

Accompanied by Prime Minister Hun Sen’s wife Bun Rany, she will meet with high school students as part of efforts to promote the “Let Girls Learn” initiative.

But despite the educational focus, the Associated Press reported on Monday that a senior US official had told reporters Obama would not ignore Cambodia’s human rights record during the visit.

“She’s going to have ample opportunity to reinforce the progress that has been made at the community level,” Evan Medeiros, senior director for Asian affairs at the National Security Council, told reporters on a White House conference call.

“She’s going to have the opportunity to meet with civil society to reinforce our view of the importance of having an open and inclusive political system, to allow civil society to have a role in good governance,” he said.

Obama will address these issues in a speech during her trip, AP reported.

The US first lady will arrive just as two election-related laws, one of which has been lambasted by NGOs for its restrictive provisions on civil society, are expected to be passed at the National Assembly.

President Obama raised human rights issues behind closed doors with Prime Minister Hun Sen during his historic visit to Cambodia for an ASEAN summit in 2012.

Although the talks were described as “tense” by US officials, Obama did not make public remarks.

According to the Washington Post, the first lady has been keen to avoid sensitive geopolitics on past trips abroad.

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