By Paul Tighe
March 9 (Bloomberg) -- Myanmar’s elections scheduled for this year must include detained opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said.
Political prisoners must be released so that “all of them can take part in elections,” Ban said in New York. “That would make the elections inclusive and credible.”
Ban commented as official newspapers in Myanmar began publishing details of new election laws, the Associated Press reported. The legislation establishes rules such as how long campaigning will last and conditions for parties contesting the ballot, AP said.
The UN and U.S. have dismissed the election as a bid by the military, which has ruled the country formerly known as Burma since 1962, to hold onto power. The ballot will take place under a constitution approved in a 2008 referendum that includes a clause effectively barring Suu Kyi from holding office.
Ban said he wrote to Senior General Than Shwe, the junta leader, last month emphasizing that the election must be held in a “transparent manner” and calling on the junta to issue new election laws.
“I repeatedly emphasized that, without the participation of Daw Aung Suu Kyi and all key political prisoners, the elections would not be inclusive,” he said. The junta is holding an estimated 2,100 political prisoners, according to the U.S.
Details of five new election-related laws will be released in official newspapers in the next few days, AP said, citing state radio and television. A report today said one law will establish a five-member commission to oversee the ballot, it said.
Suu Kyi, 64, who has spent 14 of the past 20 years in detention, had her house arrest order extended for 18 months in August after a court found her guilty of violating her detention terms, a decision that would ensure her being excluded from the elections. Myanmar’s Supreme Court last month rejected her appeal against the extension.
Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy Party hasn’t decided whether to take part in the elections. The government hasn’t set a date for the ballot.
“We don’t know what’s in the laws,” AP cited Nyan Win, a spokesman for the NLD as saying yesterday in Yangon, the former capital of Myanmar. “If elections are held this year, it won’t be fair because political parties are not given enough time” for registration and campaigning.
The U.S. has repeatedly called on the junta to release political prisoners before the election. President Barack Obama is pursuing a policy of engaging with the military leaders while maintaining trade and financial sanctions that are aimed at pressing the junta to make democratic changes in the country of more than 48 million people.