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February 21, 2008

ASEAN/MYANMAR/POLITICS/ELECTIONS
Asean calls for credible polls

UN envoy’s third visit to focus on constitutional reforms
Saying the outcome will affect all members of the 10-nation group, the Association of South East Nations expressed concerns over credibility of the election planned by Myanmar junta.

The ruling generals on February 9 announced a referendum in May on a new constitution, to be followed by an election in 2010. If held, the poll would be the first since a 1990 election whose outcome the military ignored.

At the end of the two-day Asean Retreat, Singaporean Foreign Minister George Yeo stressed the need for provisions for independent verification. The junta has said the new charter will lead to a general election in 2010 and replaced the 1988 version that was scrapped when the junta took power.

However, Myanmar’s military rulers will not allow opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi to take part in the proposed elections because she had been married to a foreigner, Singapore's Straits Times newspaper quoted the country’s Foreign Minister Nyan as saying on Tuesday.

In New York, United Nations spokeswoman Marie Okabe said: “We believe that the credibility of the political process in Myanmar is going to depend on whether it is inclusive enough so that all can participate.”

The United Nations has said constitutional reforms will be the subject of a new round of talks between its envoy Ibrahim Gambari and Burmese military leaders, after opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi was barred from running in upcoming elections.

Gambari, who was visiting Southeast Asia, has planned to visit Rangoon for the third time since last September, though it is unknown exactly when he will make the trip.

Gambari, who visited Beijing Tuesday, called on the Chinese government to send the "right signals" to demand cooperation from the ruling military junta. He then travelled to Singapore and planned to visit Jakarta and Japan for the purpose of canvassing support for democratic changes in Burma.

Gambari, who is UN chief Ban Ki-moon's pointman on promoting national reconciliation in Myanmar, will meet with foreign minister Hassan Wirayuda on Thursday and with President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono on Friday.

Indonesia has pushed for engagement with Myanmar and the foreign minister has said that his country could play a significant role by sharing its experience of transition from military government to full-fledged democracy.


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