UN rues Burma election monitor ban

The UN will continue to encourage the Burmese junta to open its borders to foreign election observers later this year “to inspire confidence” in the highly controversial polls.

Spokesperson Martin Nesirky also defended in a press conference yesterday the UN’s silence on the decision by the National League for Democracy (NLD) party to boycott the elections as a marker of respect for parties to “take their own decisions”.

The decision has led to the dissolution of the NLD, which until 6 May had been Burma’s main opposition party and the key political threat to the military government.

Recent murmurings from the Burmese junta appear to suggest that foreign election observers will not be allowed to monitor the elections. Thein Soe, the head of the Election Commission, said on Tuesday that “the nation has a lot of experience with elections. We do not need election watchdogs to come here.”

Although no official ban has been introduced, it is the second time a senior minister has made such comments: during an Armed Forces Day parade in March, junta chief Than Shwe said that during fragile transition periods when “countries with greater experience usually interfere and take advantage for their own interests… it is an absolute necessity to avoid relying on external powers.”

Little is known about the members of the Election Commission, bar its chief Thein Soe, who was vice chief justice of Burma’s supreme court and former military judge advocate general. Burma analyst Larry Jagan told DVB recently that the rest is made up of former military officers, judges, professors and a retired ambassador.

In a blunt statement yesterday by Philippines’ foreign secretary Alberto Romulo, he  questioned whether there was really any point in sending monitors to Burma’s first elections in 20 years.

“In the first place that election is fraudulent and a farce so why bother [sending monitors]? It’s a game, like children playing games,” he told AP, adding it was his personal opinion, likely due to a policy of non-interference by the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) bloc of which both Philippines and Burma are members.

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