The White House announced last week that President Obama will be hosting the president of Vietnam, Truong Tan Sang, on his first visit to Washington on July 25. The meeting appears to fall under the U.S. administration’s Asia-Pacific rebalancing strategy, or Asia Pivot, which is aimed in large part at addressing the rising regional tensions associated with China’s political and economic pressure on its smaller neighbors. While stepping up its dialogue with Beijing, the United States is strengthening ties with allies and other countries in East and Southeast Asia. But unlike most of these partners, Vietnam remains a repressive one-party state and has done little, by way of democratic reform, to earn a presidential invitation.
On May 20th, Burmese President Thein Sein will visit Washington, D.C. to meet with President Barack Obama in what will be the first trip of its kind by a Burmese head of state in 47 years. Given ongoing human rights abuses and the sluggish pace of reform, Freedom House expresses deep concern regarding the timing of the visit and the signal this will send to the Burmese regime.
Bolivia’s expulsion of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) this month is a troubling development on its own, but when viewed in the context of similar actions by other governments, it raises questions about the future of American foreign assistance in the face of authoritarianism.
Lauren Galacia manages the Asia program. Prior to joining Freedom House, she oversaw the development and implementation of citizen engagement programs throughout Asia and Eurasia, with a focus on Thailand and Burma.
A majority of Americans see democracy in the U.S. as weak and getting weaker, according to a national survey released by The Democracy Project, a joint initiative of Freedom House, the George W. Bush Institute, and the Penn Biden Center for Diplomacy and Global Engagement.
Sudan, North Korea and Uzbekistan are prominent among the most repressive regimes in the world, according to a report released by Freedom House. The study, “The Worst of the Worst: The World's Most Repressive Societies 2007,” named seventeen countries with the worst records for political rights and civil liberties, and pointed to thirteen countries which have been on the list for five years or more.