Human Rights Watch has called on US President Barack Obama to make sure that human rights are at the top of the agenda when the US leader hosts the heads of ASEAN at a summit in California next month.
In a letter sent to the White House, dated January 19, the New York-based rights group calls out several authoritarian leaders across ASEAN that they say are responsible for “grievous human rights abuses [and] war crimes”.
HRW goes on to say that the summit “contradicts previous US policy” by extending an invitation to Prime Minister Hun Sen “who carried out a coup in 1997 and has ruled abusively in Cambodia for over 30 years”.
They also called on President Obama to hold sessions at the February 15-16 summit with leaders of civil society.
Government spokesman Phay Siphan said yesterday that the US manages its human rights concerns through bilateral relationships and the California summit was a diplomatic opportunity for the US to meet with the bloc as a whole.
“It is in the interest of the US to work with ASEAN,” he said.