Young Thai asks Obama an "interesting" question (video)

President Obama needed some time to collect his thoughts before answering an "interesting" question by young Thai Pensiri Bangsiri at a White House meeting on Monday. Where would he prefer to live and why if he were a Rohingya?

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Pensiri Bangsiri asks her question of President Obama at a White House meeting on Monday.

Young Thai asks Obama an "interesting" question

President Obama needed some time to collect his thoughts before answering an "interesting" question by young Thai Pensiri Bangsiri at a White House meeting on Monday.

Ms Pensiri was representing Thailand at a Young Southeast Asian Leaders Initiative Fellows programme which featured a question-and-answer session with the president at the White House.

You can watch the exchange here and I've provided a transcript of the question and the president's rather lengthy answer.

Pensiri Bangsiri: Sawat dee Kha. Good afternoon Mr President. My name is Pensiri Bangsiri. I'm from Thailand and now I work on the anti-human-trafficking issue in Thailand and neighbouring countries. So today I would like to ask you that if you were a Rohingya which country would you prefer to live with and why. Thank you so much

Audience: laughter

Clearly taken by surprise, the president needed some time to form his response.

President Obama: That's an interesting question. Um........ Let me speak more broadly and then I'll, I'll answer your question.

Um.........We were talking earlier about what's required for Myanmar to succeed. I think one of the most important things is to put an end to discrimination against people because of what they look like or what their faith is.

And the Rohingya have been discriminated against, significantly, and that's part of the reason they are fleeing.

I think if I were a Rohingya, I would want to stay where I was born. I would want to stay in the land where my parents had lived. But I'd want to make sure that my government was protecting me and that people were treating me fairly. That's what I'd want.

And that's why it's so important I think as part of the democratic transition to take very seriously this issue of how the Rohingya are treated.

One of the things about discriminating against people or treating people differently is by definition that means that people will treat you differently, and you never know when you will find yourself in a situation in which you are a minority, where you are vulnerable, where you are not being treated fairly.

And right now, obviously, our focus is on making sure those who are being subject to human trafficking and are in some cases right now still in a very perilous situation out in the open sea, that they are relocated. I would to commend Indonesia and Malaysia for their willingness to take on thousands of these displaced persons.

The United States as part of our refugee process will take some. We've put over 100 million dollars into – over the last several years in Burma to make sure minority groups, including the Rohingya are protected against...

But ultimately, this is going to be a great test for the democracy of the future, not just in Burma-Myanmar but in areas all throughout the country.

When I was, and I know this directly because when I was young and I was living in Indonesia, there were times where there were anti-Chinese riots. They were very violent and vicious and, in fact, sometimes the Chinese-Indonesians were treated very similarly to how Jewish-Europeans were treated in Europe and subject to stereotypes and resentments and the truth of the matter is one of the reason that Singapore, I mentioned earlier, has been successful is that it has been able to bring together people who may look different but they all think of themselves as part of Singapore. And that has to be a strength, not a weakness. But that requires leadership and government being true to those principles.

To their credit, the Indonesian government when I growing up was very good about not discriminating on the basis of religion despite the fact that it was 98 percent Muslim. And I think that the tolerance towards other faiths historically in Indonesia has been part of what has contributed to progress there. You haven't seen the same kind of sectarian animosity that you've seen in parts of the Middle East.

But....the one thing I know is countries that divide themselves on racial or religious lines, they do not succeed. They do not succeed. That's rule number one.

Rule No. 2 is nations that suppress their women do not succeed. They don't succeed. Not only is it bad because half the country is not successful because they are not getting education and opportunity but it's women who teach children, which means the children are less educated if you are not teaching the moms.

So, there are some....each country is different but there are some rules if you look at development patterns around the world that are pretty consistent and those two pretty good rules.

Don't divide yourself on religious and ethnic lines and racial lines and don't discriminate against women. You do those two things, you know, you're not guaranteed success but at least you're not guaranteed failure.


  • animosity (noun): a strong feeling of opposition, anger or hatred - ความเกลียดชัง
  • basis (noun): the idea or system that something is "based" on - พื้นฐาน,รากฐาน,หลักสำคัญ
  • be true to (verb): showing respect and support for a particular person or belief in a way that does not change, even in different situations - ที่มีหลักการ, มีจรรยา, มีศีลธรรม
  • broadly: widely - อย่างกว้างขวาง
  • by definition (phrase): what something (a word, a concept) actually means - โดยความหมาย
  • commend (verb): to praise somebody/something, especially publicly - ยกย่อง, ชื่นชม.
  • consistent (adj): happening in the same way and continuing for a period of time - คงเส้นคงวา,ไม่เปลี่ยนแปลง
  • contributed to: helped to cause an event or situation - ช่วยก่อให้เกิด
  • credit (noun): praise or approval because you are responsible for something good that has happened - เกียรติยศ, ชื่อเสียง
  • development: the gradual growth of something so that it becomes more advanced, stronger, etc - การพัฒนา
  • discrimination: the practice of treating someone or a particular group in society less fairly than others - การเลือกปฏิบัติ, การแบ่งแยก
  • displaced: (of people or animals) forced to leave their home, especially because of war or a natural disaster - ซึ่งออกจากที่อยู่ไป, ซึ่งย้ายที่
  • ethnic: of a group of people with the same culture or traditions - กลุ่มชาติพันธุ์
  • exchange (noun): a situation where people give each other information - การแลกเปลี่ยนข้อมูล, การโต้ตอบ
  • faith (noun): strong religious belief - ศรัทธาในศาสนา
  • featured: included someone or something as an important part - มีบทบาทสำคัญใน
  • fellow (noun): a member of an academic or professional organization; a senior member of some colleges or universities - สมาชิกของสมาคมวิชาการ,ผู้วิจัยในมหาวิทยาลัย วุฒิบัณฑิต
  • flee: to leave a place or person quickly because you are afraid of possible danger - หนี อพยพ
  • focus: the thing or person that people are most interested in - จุดสนใจ, จุดสำคัญ, จุดหลัก
  • guarantee: to be certain that something will happen - รับรอง, รับประกัน
  • initiative: a new action or movement, often intended to solve a problem - ความคิดริเริ่ม
  • issue: a problem that needs to be considered - ประเด็น
  • minority: of a part of a population that is different in race, religion or culture form most of the population - ชนกลุ่มน้อย
  • neighbouring: located or living near or next to a place or person - ติดกัน, ที่อยู่ใกล้เคียง, ที่ตั้งอยู่ใกล้เคียง
  • obviously: clearly - เห็นได้ชัด, อย่างชัดแจ้ง
  • opportunity (noun): a chance to do something, or a situation in which it is easy for you to do something - โอกาส
  • pattern: a series of actions or events that together show how things normally happen or are done - แบบฉบับ, แบบแผน
  • perilous: very dangerous - เต็มไปด้วยอันตราย, ซึ่งไม่น่าปลอดภัย
  • prefer: to like or want more than anyone or anything else - ชอบมากกว่า
  • principle: a basic rule or belief about what is right - หลักการ
  • process: a series of actions that you take in order to achieve a result - แนวทางปฏิบัติ, กระบวน, วิธีการ
  • progress: the process of developing or of getting nearer to achieving or completing something - ความคืบหน้า
  • protect: to make sure that something is not harmed or damaged - ปกป้อง, ป้องกัน
  • provide: to give someone/ something that they want or need - จัดหาให้, จัดเตรียมไว้ให้
  • racial: connected with a person's race - เกี่ยวกับเชื้อชาติ
  • refugee: someone who leaves their country or living place, especially during a war or other threatening event - ผู้ลี้ภัย
  • religious (adj.): relating to religion, or to the beliefs and practices of a particular religion - เกี่ยวกับศาสนา
  • relocate: to move something to a new place - ย้ายที่ใหม่
  • resentment: a feeling of anger because you have been forced to accept someone or something that you do not like - ความไม่พอใจ
  • riot: a violent protest by a group of people - ความไม่สงบ การจลาจล
  • sectarian: caused by disagreements among people from different religious groups - ที่ำก่อโดยลัทธิ หรือชนกลุ่มต่างๆ
  • session (noun): a period of time that is spent doing a particular activity -
  • significantly: in an important way - อย่างสำคัญ
  • similarly: in the same way or nearly the same way -
  • situation: all the circumstances and things that are happening at a particular time and in a particular place - สถานการณ์
  • stereotype (noun): a fixed idea or image that many people have of a particular type of person or thing, but which is often not true in reality - ข้อคิดเห็นที่ไม่เป็นตัวของตัวเอง,ข้อความที่เลียนแบบมา,ทัศนคติทั่วไปของกลุ่มสังคม
  • subject to: affected by - ได้รับผล
  • succeed (verb): to achieve the goals you wanted to achieve - มีผลสำเร็จ, ประสบผลสำเร็จ, ประสบชัยชนะ
  • suppress: to prevent something from growing, developing or continuing - อดกลั้น, ยับยั้ง, ระงับ
  • tolerance: the willingness to accept somebody/something, especially opinions or behaviour that you may not agree with, or people who are not like you - การยอมรับความคิดเห็นของผู้อื่น, ความอดกลั้น
  • trafficking: dealing in illegal goods, like drugs, weapons or in illegally moving humans or animals from one place to another - การค้าสิ่งที่ผิดกฎหมาย
  • transcript: a written or printed copy of words that have been spoken - บันทึก
  • transition: the process of changing from one situation, form or state to another - ช่วงการเปลี่ยนแปลง
  • treat: to behave in a particular way towards somebody/something - ปฏิบัติ(ต่อ)
  • ultimately: finally, after a series of things have happened - ท้ายที่สุด, ตอนสุดท้าย, ในที่สุด
  • vicious: violent and cruel, aggressive and dangerous - ร้ายแรง, ดุร้าย
  • violent: involving or caused by physical force that is intended to hurt or kill somebody - รุนแรง, ร้ายแรง, สาหัส
  • vulnerable: easily damaged or harmed - ซึ่งถูกทำลายได้ง่าย
  • willingness (noun): not objecting to doing something; having no reason for not doing something - ความเต็มใจ, ความสมัครใจ

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