Posted at Daily Times on Wednesday, February 22, 2012
BANGKOK: Myanmar will “seriously consider” allowing Southeast Asian observers to attend April parliamentary by-elections, President Thein Sein said, the latest sign of openness by a civilian government keen to end decades of isolation.
The president made the comment to the visiting secretary-general of the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN), Surin Pitsuwan, ASEAN said in a statement, and both agreed observers would give more credibility to polls that will be closely watched by the international community.
If observers are allowed, it would be a first for Myanmar, which held elections in November 2010 that were fraught with allegations of vote-rigging and conducted under tight laws that hamstrung opposition parties.
Surin said ASEAN was committed to helping Myanmar fully engage with the international community.
“Myanmar’s determination, and the assistance of ASEAN … will ultimately determine the pace and intensity of Myanmar’s integration into ASEAN and the world,” he said after his trip to the remote new capital, Naypyitaw.
The government is eager to gain international acceptance for its fledgeling political system, which is led by retired generals from the former junta, including Thein Sein.
It has also been told by the Western nations that free and fair elections would go a long way towards convincing them to lift sanctions which have squeezed Myanmar’s economy.
Myanmar has repeatedly promised to pull out all the stops to ensure the vote is free and fair and has welcomed Suu Kyi’s bid to become a lawmaker, which would be a boost for a legislature that while grand in scale, has only limited powers. reuters