The top U.S. envoy to Asean said on Wednesday that despite trade and security issues being at the center of last week’s U.S.-Asean Summit, U.S. President Barack Obama also used the setting to address the region’s human rights problems.
Speaking from Jakarta during a teleconference with reporters, Nina Hachigian said that the summit held in Rancho Mirage, California, from February 15 to 16—as well as U.S.-Asean relations in general—focused on “growth, stability, [and] rules.”
“I can tell you this, that at every opportunity in the summit, the president raised the importance of human rights and rule of law,” Ms. Hachigian said, responding to a question about whether Cambodia’s invite to the summit indicated an optimistic view of its human rights situation.
“Our key priority is to see Cambodia develop into a strong democracy that respects human rights and supports a thriving civil society,” she said.
Ms. Hachigan added that “significant challenges” remained.
“We urge the Cambodian government to continue to create a more just society and improve its commitment to democracy and human rights,” she said.
In his opening remarks at the summit on February 15, Mr. Obama made passing reference to human rights and its place in U.S.-Asean relations.
CPP spokesman Sok Eysan—who last week described Prime Minister Hun Sen’s invitation to the summit as “a big, heavy wooden stick hitting the heads of the opposition people”—said that Mr. Obama’s human-rights lecturing had been minimal.
“Before the arrival of the Cambodian high delegation, [civil society groups and anti-government protesters] sharpened a knife and passed it to President Obama to chop the Cambodian high delegation,” Mr. Eysan said.
“However, we’ve noticed that nobody at the summit raised negative issues over the government’s leadership, led by Samdech Decho Hun Sen,” he said. “Therefore, we consider the Cambodian high delegation’s attendance at the U.S.-Asean Summit as a great victory.”