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Thais to press Burma on ‘discriminatory’ polls

Thailand’s foreign minister Kasit Piromya has said that the Thai delegation to a regional summit of leaders in Hanoi next week will press the Burmese junta on the issue of the elections, expressing their desire for an inclusive poll.

“I’m concerned about the national reconciliation and the inclusiveness of the whole new political process [in Burma],” Piromya told AP, offering a forewarning of his likely stance at the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) summit. Burma’s prime minister Thein Sein is also due to attend the summit, while the Thai delegation will be led by prime minister Abhisit Vejajjiva.

Piromya will also host regional foreign ministers at a Greater Mekong Subregion meeting in Thailand, scheduled to start on Sunday, where his Burmese counterpart, Nyan Win, is also due.

The Thai foreign minister spoke in unison with other world leaders when he expressed sympathy with the Burmese opposition National League for Democracy (NLD) party’s decision on Monday to not contest the upcoming poll, telling AP that “I honour and I respect that decision”.

The NLD has decided to boycott the elections, citing “unjust” laws that bar party leader Aung San Suu Kyi from running and require her expulsion if the party is to participate.

Despite the fact that Burma’s controversial elections will feature highly at the Hanoi summit next week, the ASEAN bloc is expected to stick to its ‘non-interference policy’ that has frustrated democracy activists.

Roshan Jason, executive director of the ASEAN Inter Parliamentary Myanmar Caucus (AIPMC) lobby group, earlier told DVB that: “I think [ASEAN] will just advise the government” instead of taking more drastic action, such as removing the country from the regional bloc.

Thailand for its part has remained a vocal yet inactive neighbour when it comes to democracy in Burma, with expanding bilateral trade showing no signs of abating.

Piromya had in February offered Thai support to the election process, proposing monitors to travel to the country and to train election officials. Needless to say the generals have rejected all foreign advances of election help.

Both Piromya and his Thai government colleague, Kraisak Choonhavan, also of the AIPMC, had stated that a free election was in the interests of neighbouring Thailand, with fears that continued political turmoil in Burma would lead to greater numbers of refugees fleeing into Thailand.

Piromya further said that the election laws “look discriminatory…You are providing amnesty only to the military leadership and not to the rest of the political opposition side of it”, according to AP.

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