An official from the Asian Network for Free Elections (ANFREL) who was in Burma seeking permission from state authorities to allow her group to monitor the upcoming by-elections was told to leave the country on Tuesday.
The official, who the Irrawaddy reported as Somsri Hananuntasuk, was in Burma for about six days before being sent back to Thailand by Burmese immigration authorities.
“[I wasn’t] deported. They asked me to come back and apply for the right visa,” said the ANFREL official.
Although she admits that the immigration authorities never specified which visa was appropriate.
“Now I’m confused,” said Somsri.
She said she sent a letter from Bangkok to Burma’s Union Election Commission prior to her visit. The leader asked for permission to monitor the 1 April by-elections. After receiving no response, she decided to enter the country on tourist visa and hand over the letter in person.
Somsri arrived in Burma on 15 March and met with the Election Commission in Rangoon Division and also shared her experiences at election workshops organised by NGOs, civil society groups and political parties before being forced to leave.
The ANFREL’s official abrupt exit from the country comes as Burmese officials reached out to EU and US officials on Wednesday to help monitor the upcoming election that’s been marred with allegations of government fraud and intimidation during the run-up.