KUALA LUMPUR, MALAYSIA
President Barack Obama on Sunday pressed the Malaysian government to improve its human-rights record and appealed to Southeast Asia’s teeming youth population to stand up for the rights of minorities and the rule of law.
Yet Obama skipped a golden chance to promote that human-rights agenda, declining to meet with opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim. Instead, he directed national security adviser Susan Rice to see Anwar today.
Obama said his decision was “not indicative of our lack of concern” about the former deputy prime minister who recently was convicted for the second time on sodomy charges, which the U.S. and international human-rights groups contend are politically motivated.
Obama said he had raised his concerns about Malaysia’s restrictions on political freedoms in meetings with Prime Minister Najib Razak.
Obama called the prime minister a “reformer” committed to addressing human-rights issues.
Malaysia is Obama’s third stop on a four-country swing through Asia.
He was to head today to the Philippines, where he was expected to announce a 10-year security agreement that would allow for a larger U.S. military presence there amid the Philippines’ increasingly tense territorial disputes with China.