Hanoi – The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) on Tuesday said it welcomed Myanmar’s planned November 7 elections, which Western nations have said will occur under “oppressive” conditions.Myanmar’s junta announced the poll date, the country’s first in two decades, last Friday.

“ASEAN welcomes this decision by Myanmar,” said a statement by Vietnam, which currently chairs the 10-member bloc that includes Myanmar.

“In this regard, ASEAN encourages Myanmar to further accelerate progress in the implementation of the roadmap for national reconciliation and democracy,” it said, underscoring the importance of a free, fair and “inclusive” vote.

The November 7 date falls about a week before democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi’s current house arrest is due to expire.

Her party won the last polls in 1990 but was never allowed to take office, and she has spent much of the past 20 years in detention.

As a serving prisoner, she is barred from standing in the election.

Britain, the United States, and Canada have said the November 7 vote will be held in an “oppressive” political environment.

The ASEAN statement expressed a readiness to “render assistance as deemed appropriate by Myanmar.”

ASEAN has a principle of non-interference in its members’ affairs, but Myanmar has been a source of embarrassment for more democratic members of the bloc.