Monday, November 10, 2008

EU: Myanmar vote illegitimate unless Suu Kyi freed

BRUSSELS, Belgium - Multiparty elections scheduled for 2010 in Myanmar will be seen as illegitimate unless the ruling military junta frees all political prisoners — particularly Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, the European Union said Monday.

The remarks by EU foreign ministers came after opposition groups said Myanmar's military rulers have stepped up suppression of its political opponents and jailed a number of members of Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy.

"Elections in 2010 will not have any credibility unless the authorities ... unconditionally release all political prisoners, notably Aung San Suu Kyi," the ministers said in a statement.

Suu Kyi, a Nobel Peace Prize laureate, has been under house arrest for more than 12 of the past 19 years.

EU foreign ministers also urged the military government to start talking with all opposition parties and minority ethnic groups ahead of the vote.

The junta has announced general elections in 2010 as part of its "roadmap to democracy." It follows a national referendum in May that approved a set of constitutional amendments.

Critics say these cement the power of the military in government affairs. But the government insists the changes are a major step forward in restoring civilian rule.

The junta came to power in 1988 in Myanmar — formerly known as Burma — after crushing a nationwide pro-democracy uprising, killing as many as 3,000 people. It organized multiparty elections in 1990 but refused to honor the results after Suu Kyi's party won overwhelmingly. - AP

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