SA calls for reform in troubled Myanmar

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Pretoria - South Africa has called on the government of the military-ruled nation of Myanmar to honour its undertakings to release all political prisoners, including Nobel Peace Laureate Aung San Suu Kyi.

This as voters in that country cast their first ballots in 20 years on Sunday, in an election marred by intimidation of opposition and lack of transparency.

The Department of International Relations and Cooperation said on Thursday that while it respected the sovereignty of Myanmar, indications were that the elections did not meet internationally acceptable standards in terms of inclusivity, transparency and fairness.

"South Africa has closely followed the process that led to the elections and concluded that conditions were not created for inclusive dialogue in which all parties and interest groups could freely and openly participate," said the department.

South Africa continued to respect the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Myanmar, but believes that an opportunity for progress towards democratisation, nation building and reconciliation was lost.

Myanmar media reported that hundreds of potential opposition candidates were either in prison or, like Suu Kyi, under house arrest and barred from taking part in the poll.

The military has ruled Myanmar since 1962, when it was known as Burma. Decades of human rights abuses and mistreatment of its ethnic minorities have been reported.

The department said South Africa expresses hope that the new government will show progress towards a transition to an inclusive, democratic government, nation building and respect for human rights.