Duterte tells regional leaders, U.S. not to lecture Philippines on rights

VIENTIANE (Reuters) - Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte on Thursday defended his country’s human rights record at a regional summit in Laos, urging East Asian leaders and the United States to help Manila eradicate the scourge of illicit drugs.

Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte attends the ASEAN Summit in Vientiane, Laos September 7, 2016. REUTERS/Soe Zeya Tun

Duterte swept to power in May on promises to wipe out crime and corruption within six months, pledging to wage a war on drug dealers and crush widespread addiction in a country of 100 million.

The toll in his government’s two-month war on drugs reached 2,400 last week, with police saying about 900 people died in police operations, and the rest were “deaths under investigation”, a term human rights activists call a euphemism for vigilante and extrajudicial killings.

Setting aside a prepared speech, Duterte spoke for more than five minutes about human rights and his campaign against drugs during the East Asian Summit in the Laotian capital of Vientiane, according to one Indonesian diplomat at the meeting.

“Let me tell you about human rights,” the diplomat quoted Duterte as saying while displaying a picture of Filipinos killed by American soldiers about a century ago.

“This is my ancestors being killed, so why now we are talking about human rights? We have to talk of the full spectrum of human rights.”

Duterte spoke after Obama had delivered a speech that referred to human rights.

Duterte’s drive has won popular support at home but the killings have drawn expressions of concern from the United States, a close Philippine ally, and the United Nations.

In a tirade before the Laos summit, Duterte insulted U.S. President Barack Obama and the White House responded by cancelling a two-way meeting.

Philippine officials this week handed out a 38-page pamphlet at the summit that praised Duterte’s drug campaign.

Reporting by Manny Mogato; Editing by Amy Sawitta Lefevre and Clarence Fernandez