National elections scheduled to be held in Myanmar later this year – the first in the country in two decades – must be “inclusive, participatory and transparent,” Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and a group of key nations said today.
Such polls would help to “advance the prospects of stability, democracy and development for all the people of Myanmar,” Mr. Ban told reporters following a meeting of the so-called Group of Friends, which brings together more than one dozen nations and one regional bloc in support of greater dialogue in the Asian nation.
The Government, he said, must create the conditions to allow for free participation in the elections.
“This includes the release of all political prisoners – including Daw Aung San Suu Kyi – and respect for fundamental freedoms,” he added.
Ms. Suu Kyi, a pro-democracy leader and Nobel Peace Prize laureate, was sentenced last August to an additional 18 months of house arrest, effectively barring her from taking part in the polls. She was reportedly convicted of violating State security laws after an uninvited United States citizen gained access to her home.
“I have expressed my concerns that the published electoral laws and the overall electoral environment so far do not fully measure up to what is needed for an inclusive political process,” the Secretary-General stressed.
Earlier this month, Myanmar’s authorities unveiled new electoral laws, which according to media reports, relate to the registration of political parties and prohibit anyone with a criminal conviction from being a member of an official party.
Mr. Ban told reporters today that it is both “frustrating” and “disappointing that we have not seen much progress.”
During his last visit to Myanmar in last July, he urged Senior General Than Shwe to take concrete actions, including the release of political prisoners, but “implementation of commitments seems to come very slowly and gradually.”
Earlier this month, an independent United Nations human rights expert who recently visited the country said that there is no indication that the Government is willing to release political prisoners ahead of the national elections.
“Without full participation, including by the some 2,100 prisoners of conscience, and an environment that allows people and parties to engage in the range of electoral activities, the elections cannot be credible,” he said.
Responding to a question on whether or not Ms. Suu Kyi’s call for her National League for Democracy (NLD) party to not take part in the polls will hurt the electoral process, the Secretary-General said today that her decision must be respected.
He has told the leaders of Myanmar, he said, that “without full participation of all the people, including political prisoners, and particularly Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, it may not be regarded as credible and inclusive.”
Mr. Ban also noted to reporters today that the Group of Friends has underscored the need to improve the living standards of Myanmar’s people.
“This reflects our view that Myanmar’s political, humanitarian and development challenges should be addressed in parallel and with equal attention,” he said.