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As President Obama prepares for next week’s Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Summit inLaos, Amnesty International USA has urged him to press leaders to address human rights abuses in the region.

Specifically, the organization has called on him to press authorities on the disappearance of a Lao civil society leader; discrimination against the Rohingya people in Myanmar; and rampant killings by police in the Philippines.

“President Obama must use this opportunity to convey to Southeast Asian leaders that the world is watching,” said T. Kumar, an advocacy director with Amnesty International USA. “Governments in Southeast Asia and around the world must abide by their international human rights obligations. Enforced disappearances, oppression and state-sanctioned violence cannot be tolerated.”

The organization urged President Obama to press heads of state on the following issues:

  • Sombath Somphone disappeared after being forced from his car at a traffic stop in December 2012. His whereabouts remain unknown. Somphone had dedicated his life to eradicating poverty and fostering sustainable development in Laos, earning the Ramon Magsaysay Award for Community Leadership – known as Asia’s Nobel Peace Prize – for his work in 2005. The Lao government must investigate his disappearance and the U.S. should offer any technical assistance possible.
  • The Rohingya have endured decades of discrimination in Myanmar. They face severe restrictions on their freedom of movement, which impacts their access to healthcare, education and equal employment opportunities. Tens of thousands of Rohingya’s have fled the country in recent years, many of them  undertaking perilous journeys at sea where they are vulnerable to abuse and exploitation at the hands of human traffickers. The Myanmar government, led by State counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi, must take immediate steps to restore rights to the Rohingya – including citizenship rights – and stop abuses against them.
  • Since President Rodrigo Duterte took office in the Philippines at the end of June, more than 1,700 people have lost their lives in an ongoing wave of unlawful killings that he has encouraged. The authorities have recognized that over 700 were killed by the police, alleging they were people who use or sell drugs, many of which appear to have been extrajudicially executed. There must be prompt, independent and impartial investigations into these killings and ensure an independent oversight mechanism for the investigations. The President and other high-level authorities must end the rhetoric provoking this wave of killings. No person should be summarily executed, whatever the crime they may be suspected of.