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US, Britain urge Myanmar to include Aung San Suu Kyi in polls

Friday, February 29, 2008

The following newsreport is from the ‘Tolerance.ca webzine’ see http://www.tolerance.ca/Article.aspx?ID=9460&L=en


AFP - Khin Maung Win


BANGKOK - Senior diplomats from Britain and the United States on Friday urged Myanmar’s military junta to include Aung San Suu Kyi and her pro-democracy party in a promised referendum and elections.


Myanmar’s generals earlier this month made a surprise announcement that they would bring the recently-completed constitution before the public for approval in May, setting the stage for elections in 2010 - the first in two decades.


Any hopes of real democratic reform in Myanmar were quickly dashed, however, when the regime said detained Aung San Suu Kyi could not run, while her National League for Democracy (NLD) party slammed the constitution.


Meg Munn, a British Foreign Office Minister, told reporters in Bangkok that the referendum in the country formally know as Burma must be a "genuine process" rather than a charade to quell growing world pressure.


"It needs to involve the National League for Democracy, and be a process which can genuinely lead to democracy, not something that is just put in place to satisfy the pressure that is there from the international community for change," Munn said.


"We don’t know yet whether it will meet those standards," she added.


After a meeting with Thailand’s Foreign Minister Noppadon Pattama in Bangkok, Munn urged Myanmar’s neighbours to help push the repressive regime toward democracy.


"We believe Thailand, Indonesia, places such as that, can be seen as role models for Burma," she said. "They have moved from situations of military involvement to democracy and we’d like to see that happen in Burma as well."


Christopher Hill, the US pointman for East Asian affairs, was also in Bangkok on Friday and condemned a September 2007 crackdown on protesters that, according to UN figures, left at least 31 people dead.


"I think we all want to see Myanmar begin to improve its dialogue with its opposition, especially with the release of political prisoners including Aung San Suu Kyi," he said.


"The process of closing out those people has really left Burma in an isolated state and not a healthy state for a country of such strategic importance and size," he told reporters.


The NLD won elections in 1990 with a landslide, but instead of letting them govern, the junta put Aung San Suu Kyi under house arrest and continued to rule the once-prosperous nation with an iron fist.


The United States has ridiculed Myanmar’s proposed constitution, urging the regime to "start from scratch" and draft a new one with the NLD’s participation. 

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