Burma pledges free election

(AFP), Burma’s foreign minister has told Southeast Asian counterparts that promised elections would be held this year and would be fair, the ASEAN secretary general said on Thursday.

Surin Pitsuwan said the military-ruled state’s foreign minister, Nyan Win, made the comments at a dinner on Wednesday in Vietnam with his counterparts from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).

“That was done last night and it was assured that it will be this year, and it will be free, fair and credible,” Mr Surin told reporters on the sidelines of an ASEAN foreign ministers’ meeting. “No date has been set, but everything is moving on course. That’s what we were told.”

Mr Surin said the ASEAN ministers “have expressed their high hope that the issue of Burma will be resolved this year and that we can move on to the new era of ASEAN relations and cooperation with the international community.”

ASEAN, which has a principle of non-interference in members’ affairs, has long faced criticism for not taking a firmer stand on Burma.

Mr Nyan Win refused to make any comment to AFP on Thursday.

The United States and the 10-member ASEAN bloc agreed in November that Burma’s scheduled 2010 elections must be “free, fair, inclusive and transparent” to be credible.

The call came after President Barack Obama and Burmese prime minister Thein Sein took part in the first-ever ASEAN-US summit, a reversal of a longstanding US policy of shunning the Burmese regime.

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