Protesters gather outside US-Asean summit in Sunnylands

Protesters outside the Sunnylands Estate in California ahead of the US-ASEAN leaders Summit on Feb 15, 2016.
Protesters outside the Sunnylands Estate in California ahead of the US-ASEAN leaders Summit on Feb 15, 2016.ST PHOTO: KUA CHEE SIONG
Protesters outside the Sunnylands Estate in California ahead of the US-ASEAN leaders Summit on Feb 15, 2016.
Protesters outside the Sunnylands Estate in California ahead of the US-ASEAN leaders Summit on Feb 15, 2016.ST PHOTO: KUA CHEE SIONG
Protesters outside the Sunnylands Estate in California ahead of the US-ASEAN leaders Summit on Feb 15, 2016.
Protesters outside the Sunnylands Estate in California ahead of the US-ASEAN leaders Summit on Feb 15, 2016.ST PHOTO: KUA CHEE SIONG
Protesters outside the Sunnylands Estate in California ahead of the US-ASEAN leaders Summit on Feb 15, 2016.
Protesters outside the Sunnylands Estate in California ahead of the US-ASEAN leaders Summit on Feb 15, 2016.ST PHOTO: KUA CHEE SIONG

SUNNYLANDS, CALIFORNIA - Protesters gathered outside the Sunnylands estate in California as US President Barack Obama and Asean leaders arrived for the start of their two-day summit.

The protesters stood at the intersection just outside the security cordon for the summit, waving flags and chanting slogans.

A few hundred were there on a Monday afternoon local time and local reports said up to 1,000 are expected to turn up.

A similarly large group staged a protest in 2013 when Chinese President Xi Jinping came to Sunnylands for a summit with President Obama.

 
 
 

This time around, the groups represented several causes.

There was a cluster holding up signs opposing the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) free trade deal. The TPP, which includes the US, Singapore and three other Asean countries, has been the source of much debate in the US.

Many Americans argue that free trade deals like the TPP either send jobs overseas or lower wages. There was also a large group who gathered to oppose the governments of Cambodia and Laos.

In the weeks leading up to the US-Asean summit, civil society groups had been pushing for human rights to be on the agenda of the meeting.

Some US news outlets have also raised questions about whether the country should be hosting the summit. The Los Angeles Times published an article last week with the headline "A crowd of dictators is coming to Southern California", listing the Asean leaders who were not elected.

On Monday, White House National Security Adviser Susan Rice pushed back on the suggestions that the US was weakening its stance on human rights by hosting the summit.

"We deal with countries around the world, including in Asia, with whom we have serious disagreements on human rights, on democracy, on corruption and yet we do talk to them. But at the same time, we take every opportunity, both publicly and privately to underscore our grave concerns about human rights," she said in response to a question.

She stressed earlier that the US-Asean summit was an important signal of President Obama's commitment to Asia.