Freedom House urges President Obama to highlight ongoing human rights issues and to meet with civil society during his upcoming trip to Southeast Asia, which includes visits to Cambodia, Burma, and Thailand. These stops are scheduled during the President’s travel to the region November 17-20, where he will attend the East Asia Summit and meet with leaders of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) in Phnom Penh. It will be the first time a sitting United States President will visit Cambodia and Burma.
The world was outraged when a 14-year-old girl in Pakistan was shot in the head last week simply for being an ardent advocate for the right of girls to an education. Unfortunately, Malala's case is not an isolated one. In most parts of the world today, individuals and organizations working to advance social, political, and environmental justice face imminent danger as a result of their work. In the past two months alone, a 70-year-old activist in Cambodia was sentenced to 20 years in prison because he challenged the government's policy of confiscating local land for powerful corporate interests; in southern India, police used live ammunition on villagers protesting against a proposed nuclear power plant; a human rights lawyer opposing the creation of special economic development zones was shot dead in Honduras; and in the United Arab Emirates, an outspoken critic of inhumane treatment of political prisoners was assaulted in the street twice and faced government surveillance.
Update: Freedom House strongly condemns the Cambodian Court of Appeals’ decision to deny bail to independent radio station owner Mam Sonando while he awaits appeal. The 71-year-old radio station owner was convicted of sedition in October 2012 and sentenced to 20 years in prison, despite a clear lack of evidence. The charges against Sonando are unfounded and politically motivated, and stem from criticism of the Cambodian government that aired on his radio station in June 2012. Freedom House calls for his immediate release.