Myanmar minister pledges free election: ASEAN
DANANG, Jan 14 (AFP) - Myanmar's foreign minister has told Southeast Asian counterparts that promised elections would be held this year and would be fair, the ASEAN secretary general said Thursday.
Surin Pitsuwan said the military-ruled state's Foreign Minister Nyan Win made the comments at a dinner Wednesday in Vietnam with his counterparts from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).
"That was done last night and it was assured that it will be this year, and it will be free, fair and credible," Surin told reporters on the sidelines of an ASEAN foreign ministers' meeting.
"No date has been set, but everything is moving on course. That's what we were told."
Surin said the ASEAN ministers "have expressed their high hope that the issue of Myanmar will be resolved this year and that we can move on to the new era of ASEAN relations and cooperation with the international community."
ASEAN, which has a principle of non-interference in members' affairs, has long faced criticism for not taking a firmer stand on Myanmar.
Nyan Win refused to make any comment to AFP on Thursday.
The United States and the 10-member ASEAN bloc agreed in November that Myanmar's scheduled 2010 elections must be "free, fair, inclusive and transparent" to be credible.
The call came after President Barack Obama and Myanmar Prime Minister Thein Sein took part in the first-ever ASEAN-US summit, a reversal of a longstanding US policy of shunning the Myanmar regime.
Critics of the junta are demanding that detained opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi's party, the National League for Democracy, be allowed to take part in in the ballot.
Last week the United States voiced doubts whether elections in Myanmar -- formerly known as Burma -- would be credible and urged the junta to engage the opposition and ethnic minorities.
The election would be the first since 1990. Suu Kyi's party won the last ballot by a landslide but was never permitted to take office.
Reclusive junta leader Than Shwe last week urged citizens to make "correct choices" at the polls. The regime has so far failed to set a date or issue election laws despite promising to hold the polls this year.