Congressman Lowenthal Calls On President To Make Human Rights A Key Part of US, Southeast Asian Nations Summit in CA

February 10, 2016
Press Release

Congressman Alan Lowenthal (CA-47) today, along with 34 of his Congressional colleagues, called on President Barack Obama to make human rights a key part of the agenda at the upcoming US-ASEAN summit between the United States and ten Asian nations that starts next week.

The letter expresses the deep concern the Congressional members have with the condition of human rights in Southeast Asia and urges the President "to place human rights among your highest priorities on the summit agenda and encourage you to include robust participation by civil society organizations in the program."

ASEAN is the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, a nearly 50-year-old political and economic organization of ten Southeast Asian countries which include Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Brunei, Cambodia, Laos, Burma, and Vietnam.

President Obama is hosting the ASEAN leaders in California, the first time an ASEAN summit has been held in the U.S.

The letter to the President specifically cites ongoing human rights violations in Vietnam, Cambodia, Brunei, Thailand, Burma, and Laos.

  • Vietnam's one-party state continues to jail human rights activists and suppress religious freedom, workers' rights, free speech, and freedom of the press.
  • Cambodia's government, headed by Prime Minister Hun Sen for over thirty years, has continually harassed and intimidated Cambodia's political opposition and is investigating the leader of the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party.
  • Same-sex acts are illegal in four ASEAN countries and punishable by death in Brunei.
  • Thailand has been ruled by a military junta since a 2014 coup, and efforts to restore democracy have been halting and uneven.
  • While Burma has just conducted historic elections, the Rohingya people continue to face widespread persecution and displacement.
  • In Laos, space for civil society continues to shrink, while the case of the forced disappearance of civil society leader Sombath Somphone in 2012 remains unresolved.
"These are only some of the most salient human rights abuses in ASEAN nations," Congressman Lowenthal and his colleagues wrote to the President. "We strongly urge you to make human rights a key part of the agenda at the US-ASEAN summit, press ASEAN countries to commit to improving their human rights records, and engage human rights groups and civil society from these countries as part of the summit."

To read the full text of the letter, click here.