First Lady's Cambodia students plea
US first lady Michelle Obama is calling on Cambodian students to stay in school and take advantage of their education to demand greater freedoms.
Cambodia has been ruled for 30 years by strongman Hun Sen, the prime minister, whose wife Bun Rany joined Mrs Obama on her visit today to the northern city of Siem Reap.
Mrs Obama is on a five-day trip to Asia to promote the US-led education initiative, "let girls learn," which she and the president announced earlier this month.
The community-based programme, to be run by the Peace Corps, is meant to help get 62 million girls around the developing world back into classrooms.
Mrs Obama spoke to students at a single-storey brick red high school surrounded by dirt roads that unlike most schools in the rural region has running water.
After being welcomed by rows of children who greeted her waving Cambodian and American flags, the first lady met 10 girls who shared tales of rising early to feed their families before heading off on long treks to school and studying late into the night.
"You are role models to the world," Mrs Obama said, calling on the students to use their "voices to advocate for good things - whether it's more education, better health-care, more freedoms, more equality.
"You now will have a voice and you will have the training and education to use it for good. Not just here in Cambodia, not just here in Siem Reap, but in the world. I hope that you all will feel empowered to do that."
Mrs Obama's trip marks the first by a sitting American first lady to Cambodia. President Barack Obama became the first US president to visit Cambodia in 2012, and pressed Hun Sen in private on a variety of human rights and political issues during a meeting that White House officials described as tense.
Hun Sen is one of the world's longest serving heads of state, and has been regularly criticised by political opponents and human rights groups for monopolising power and brutally crushing all dissent.