Suu Kyi ‘can run if freed’: Burma FM

Burma opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi will be free to run in elections this year once she is released from house arrest, Burma’s foreign minister has reportedly said.

He also told his Japanese counterpart Katsuya Okada yesterday that North Korea’s nuclear development programmes “are unacceptable”, Jiji Press reported.

Nyan Win is at the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF) in Hanoi this week, where he has been the focus of criticism from Southeast Asia leaders over planned elections later this year.

Burma’s constitution does not bar Suu Kyi from competing in the polls, Nyan Win said. The comments appear to be at odds with recently unveiled election laws that bar former or serving prisoners and Burmese citizens who have been married to foreigners from running for office, as Suu Kyi falls into both categories.

The opposition icon was sentenced in August last year to 18 months under house arrest for allegedly ‘sheltering’ US citizen John Yettaw, who swam to her lakeside compound in May. She is not due to be released until November this year.

The head of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations bloc, Surin Pitsuwan, told reporters on Monday that Nyan Win had got “an earful” from his regional colleagues on the need for free and fair elections. No date has yet been set for the polls, but the Burmese government has said they will be held in the second half of this year.

Allegations of Burma’s nuclear ambitions were likely high on the agenda yesterday as US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton joined the 27-member ARF talks. The US has expressed concern about an investigation by DVB that uncovered evidence of a nuclear programme in Burma, and substantial North Korean weapons exports to the pariah state.

North Korea is also believed to be helping Burma in the developing of a vast network of underground military bunkers, and North Korean-made multi-launcher rocket systems have been sighted in northern Burma in the past month.

The ARF is the top security forum for the East Asia region, and includes the 10 ASEAN members, as well as 17 other countries, including China, the US and North Korea.

Pyongyang sent its foreign minister, Pak Ui Chun, to the talks yesterday after a two-year hiatus. He skipped last year’s meeting in Thailand, which followed on the heels of North Korea’s second nuclear test. Along with Burma’s controversial elections, discussion of North Korea’s alleged torpedoing of a South Korea ship earlier this year is likely to feature highly at the summit.

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