Former Singapore PM urges free elections in Burma

June 10, 2009 (DVB), The former prime minister of Singapore has urged the Burmese government not to ignore international pressure on the trial of Aung San Suu Kyi and to ensure elections next year are free and fair.

Goh Chok Tong, now a senior minister in Singapore, is currently in Burma on a diplomatic visit.

During separate meetings with Burma junta leader Senior General Than Shwe and Prime Minister Thein Sein, Goh urged the government to ensure that next year's elections, tentatively scheduled for March, follow democratic protocol, a report said today.

Critics of the Burmese junta have said that 2008's redrafted constitution, which allocates 25 per cent of parliamentary seats to the military even before voters go to the polls, guarantees an entrenchment of military rule.

The constitution also bars opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi from running for office.

Suu Kyi is currently on trial for alleged breaching of conditions of her house arrest and could face up to five years in prison if found guilty.

Many see the trial as a pretext to keep the National League for Democracy party's leader in detention beyond the elections next year.

Goh warned the generals not to ignore mounting international condemnation of the trial, with the normally amiable Singaporean government recently expressing its "dismay" at current events in Burma.

Both countries are members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) bloc, currently headed by Thailand.

An ASEAN policy of non-interference in the affairs of member countries has been questioned over the month, with the Thai foreign minister voicing concern that the political crisis in Burma was tarnishing the bloc's image.

Reporting by Francis Wade and AFP

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