Mon 19 Jul 2010
Filed under: International
Bangkok – Britain will regard a general election due later this year in Myanmar as illegitimate if the military government denies a role to thousands of political opponents now in prison, a junior minister said on Sunday.Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Jeremy Browne said the new British government supported London’s long-standing policy of applying pressure on Myanmar, also known as Burma, to improve its political and human rights record.
“The British government remains very disappointed about the past activities of the regime in Burma. We do not regard the coming election as a legitimate expression of public opinion,” Browne told Reuters after talks with Thai Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya.
“More than 2,000 political prisoners are being held in Burma, which makes it impossible for a meaningful election to take place in Burma,” he said.
Browne told the British parliament this month that elections in Myanmar this year could not be viewed as free and fair as long as Nobel peace laureate Aung San Suu Kyi and other political prisoners remained in detention.
The military government has yet to set a date for the election.
Suu Kyi has spent 15 of the past 21 years in detention because of her fight for democracy in the army-ruled country and is under house arrest in the former capital, Yangon.
Suu Kyi is the daughter of the hero of the country’s campaign for independence from British rule, Aung San. She was first detained in 1989, a year after she emerged as a champion of political reform during an unsuccessful, student-led uprising for democracy.
Her party won a landslide election victory in 1990, only to be denied power by the military.
The election planned for this year will be the first since then, but critics have already denounced it as a sham that will leave real power with the military.
Last year, Suu Kyi was found guilty of breaking a draconian security law after briefly giving shelter to an American intruder after he swam to her lakeside home. Critics of the generals accused them of trumping up the charges to sideline Suu Kyi in the run-up to the election.
Commenting on reports North Korea and Myanmar might have been cooperating on a project to develop nuclear arms, Browne said: “If that is the case, it is a contravention of international law, and we are very strongly and emphatically of the view that nuclear proliferation of this type is wrong and we will express that in the strongest terms at international institutions.”
(Editing by Alan Raybould)