Tue 30 Mar 2010
Filed under: Opinion,Other
New York: China has joined Australia and the US in telling Burma’s military junta to free all political prisoners, including Aung San Suu Kyi, and allow them to participate in upcoming elections, the United Nations Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon, said.”The government must create conditions that give all stakeholders the opportunity to participate freely in elections,” Mr Ban said. ”This includes the release of all political prisoners.”
The call came at a meeting of the Group of Friends of Burma on Thursday convened by Mr Ban to review the new electoral laws that disqualify Suu Kyi before the first national polls in 20 years.
The group comprises Australia, Britain, China, the European Union, France, India, Indonesia, Japan, Norway, Russia, Singapore, South Korea, Thailand, the United States and Vietnam.
Mr Ban said the group was ”disappointed” with the junta’s lack of progress towards democratic elections, including electoral laws that ”do not fully measure up to what is needed for an inclusive political process”.
Further pressure was put on the junta when Britain’s representative on the Security Council, Sir Mark Lyall Grant, said Britain would back moves to refer Burma’s military leaders to the International Criminal Court for investigation into war crimes and crimes against humanity.
He said Britain supported a recommendation by the UN special rapporteur on human rights in Burma that the court open a war crimes investigation.
However Sir Mark said the Security Council’s five permanent members were ”not sufficiently unanimous” in their views to allow an ICC referral to happen immediately.
The junta announced laws on March 9 that bar participation by Suu Kyi and other political prisoners, a spokesman for her National League for Democracy said. The regulations prohibit them from standing for office and give political parties 60 days to register or face dissolution.
Excluding Suu Kyi and about 2100 other political prisoners from the election may set back attempts by the US President, Barack Obama, to engage with Burma’s military, which has ruled since 1962.
The election laws say that political parties must pledge to uphold a constitution approved in a 2008 referendum in which voters were not allowed to cast ballots in secret.
The constitution, approved by 92 per cent of voters, includes a clause effectively barring Suu Kyi from holding office.
China’s acquiescence in Mr Ban’s statement represented backing for stronger international engagement than its UN ambassador expressed on Thursday when he was asked about possible Security Council action. China has resisted Security Council involvement in Burma.
”A general election, held in any country, is a matter of a sovereign state,” the Chinese ambassador, Li Baodong, said. ”That should be respected.”
Mr Li also said it was ”very important for the international community and the UN to help Burma to promote a constructive, healthy environment” for elections.
Bloomberg, Guardian News & Media, Agence France-Presse