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October 27, 10

NEWS / Not too late for Myanmar to make upcoming polls more inclusive, Ban says

26 October 2010 – With just under two weeks left until Myanmar holds its first elections in two decades, it is “not too late” for the South-East Asian nation to make the polls more participatory by releasing political detainees, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said today.

Opposition leader and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Aung San Suu Kyi is among the political prisoners who continue to be detained.

“We are really expecting that this election will be a fair one and a credible one and an inclusive one,” Mr. Ban told reporters following a meeting with Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva in Bangkok.

What is also key, he stressed, is how inclusive of a Government is formed after the 7 November polls, only the third multi-party elections in the 60 years since independence.

“That will be a test of the Myanmar Government – how they will be able to meet the expectations of the international community,” the Secretary-General said.

“The more they signal through concrete actions that it is a departure from business as usual or the status quo towards more openness, the better it will be for the credibility of their country in the democratization process.”

Although Myanmar has signalled that it does not want outside help for its elections, the United Nations is committed to long-term engagement with the country, underlined Mr. Ban, who will meet with Prime Minister Thein Sein on the sidelines of the joint UN-Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN)) meeting shortly in Hanoi, Viet Nam.

Last week, an independent UN human rights expert characterized the upcoming polls as “deeply flawed,” noting that “conditions for the general elections are limited under the current circumstances” and that the potential for the polls to bring meaningful change remain uncertain.

Tomás Ojea Quintana, the Special Rapporteur on the Human Rights Situation in Myanmar, told reporters in New York that “the Myanmar Government needs to send a strong signal to the international community about its commitment to hold genuine elections, and the unconditional and immediate release of prisoners of conscience would be such a signal.”

In presenting his report on the polls to the General Assembly, he said that the freedoms of expression and assembly have been further restricted through the implementation of election laws, while party registration requirements and the high cost of registering candidates have hampered parties not backed by the Government.

“It is clear that the process has not been inclusive,” Mr. Quintana stressed.

Among other topics discussed between the Secretary-General and the Thai Prime Minister today was the current situation in Thailand, which was rocked by deadly political violence earlier this year between anti-Government protesters and security forces, as well as the national reconciliation efforts under way.

“Many of the issues that led to the recent violence and tragic loss of life can best be resolved through committed and genuine national dialogue conducted in good faith,” said Mr. Ban, who encouraged Mr. Vejjajiva to press ahead with these efforts through an inclusive, broad-based process.

Thailand “has many important lessons to offer the world,” he said, pointing out that the country is on track to meeting most of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), the eight anti-poverty targets with a 2015 deadline, and is also deeply engaged in South-South cooperation.

Thailand is the first stop on the Secretary-General’s four-nation Asia visit. He has arrived in Cambodia for the second leg of his tour, and will also travel to Viet Nam and China.




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