Obama's message to Yingluck
If the newly re-elected president wants to uphold the human rights principles the US professes to believe in, he should speak out on unresolved injustices in the South and on the streets of Bangkok, the country's draconian lese majeste law and the continuing use of child and forced migrant labour
While many are talking about what US President Barack Obama will say about human rights in his trips to Myanmar and Cambodia, little is being said about the serious human rights problems in Thailand. Mr Obama's visit to Thailand is an opportunity to press the Thai government and military to end abuses in the South, protect freedom of expression, and hold those responsible for political violence to account.
In his meeting with Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra today, Mr Obama should make it clear that the US opposes an amnesty for the killings and other abuses related to the 2010 anti-government protests. He should then repeat this in public. In doing so, Mr Obama can show the people of Asia that the US "pivot" to the region is not just about containing China or enhancing US security and economic interests, but is about how ordinary citizens are treated by their governments.
Thailand's close relationship with the US is shown by the fact that it is one of only two officially designated "major non-Nato allies" of the US in Southeast Asia, and it hosts the annual Cobra Gold training activities, the largest land-based US training in the region. Indeed, Mr Obama's trip was preceded by the Nov 15 signing by US Defence Secretary Leon Panetta and Defence Minister ACM Sukumpol Suwanatat of the 2012 Joint Vision Statement for the Thai-US Defence Alliance.
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