Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today called on the authorities in Myanmar to ensure that the upcoming general elections are free and fair, and to release all remaining political prisoners so that they can fully participate in their country’s political life.
The Union Election Commission of Myanmar has announced that the polls – the country’s first elections in 20 years – will be held on 7 November.
“The Secretary-General reiterates his call on the Myanmar authorities to honour their publicly stated commitments to hold inclusive, free and fair elections in order to advance the prospects of peace, democracy and development for Myanmar,” his spokesperson said in a statement.
“As essential steps for any national reconciliation and democratic transition process, the Secretary-General strongly urges the authorities to ensure that fundamental freedoms are upheld for all citizens of Myanmar and to release all remaining political prisoners without delay so that they can freely participate in the political life of their country,” the statement added.
In March, Mr. Ban and the Group of Friends on Myanmar, which brings together more than one dozen nations and one regional bloc in support of greater dialogue in the country, said the Government 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 stated after meeting with the group in New York.
Ms. Suu Kyi, a pro-democracy leader and Nobel Peace Prize laureate who has been under house arrest for much of the past two decades, was sentenced last August to an additional 18 months of house arrest, effectively barring her from taking part in the polls.
Mr. Ban and his Special Adviser, Vijay Nambiar, remain closely engaged with the Myanmar authorities, “but they feel that this process requires more cooperation from Myanmar and all concerned,” UN spokesperson Martin Nesirky told reporters today.
Earlier this week, Mr. Ban told a news conference in New York that “a lack of cooperation at this critical moment represents nothing less than a lost opportunity for Myanmar.”