(Reuters) – Elections planned for this year by Myanmar’s military junta will lack credibility as regulations for the polls breach basic human rights, a United Nations envoy said on Monday.
Tomas Ojea Quintana, U.N. special rapporteur on human rights in Myanmar, said regulations just published banned prisoners of conscience from participating in elections, or even being members of political parties.
Ojea Quintana said there was no indication the junta was planning to release prisoners of conscience — who he estimated at over 2,100 — or allow basic freedoms of expression or assembly.
“Under these current conditions, elections in Myanmar cannot be considered credible,” he told a news conference after presenting a report to the U.N. Human Rights Council.
The regulations would prevent detained Nobel Laureate Aung San Suu Kyi from taking part in the poll.
Her party, the National League for Democracy (NLD), won the last election in 1990 but the junta ignored the result and officially annulled it last Thursday.
The NLD, which has been allowed to open regional branch offices closed for seven years, is considering whether to take part in the poll, which has been widely dismissed outside Myanmar as a sham intended to make the former Burma appear more democratic while leaving the military in control.
Ojea Quintana, who visited the resource-rich southeast Asian country in February, said officials had assured him that the elections would go ahead this year, even though a date has not been set.
Besides acting fast to make the elections fair, the junta must address the question of accountability for the gross systematic violations of human rights over past decades, the Argentine lawyer said.
Otherwise, the international community needed to step in, he said, for instance by launching a U.N. commission of inquiry, spelling out a recommendation in his report to the council.
Myanmar’s ambassador to the U.N., U Wunna Maung Lwin, dismissed Ojea Quintana’s report as a politicised attempt to interfere in the election.
“My government has clearly stated that there are no prisoners of conscience and that those who are serving prison terms are (those) who offended the existing laws and regulations,” he told the council.
Ojea Quintana also criticised the government for its treatment of the Muslim minority in northern Rakhine state.
He said they were suffering discrimination because they are treated as illegal immigrants rather than citizens, and are punished for illegal marriage while new-born children are not registered, depriving them of access to health and education.