(Mizzima) – United Nations special rights envoy to Burma on Tuesday urged the country’s junta to take steps to fulfil its promise of a smooth transition from military rule by releasing all political prisoners, on the eve of the deadline for political party registration.
Tomas Ojea Quintana, the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Burma since May, 2008, in a statement said: “Now is the time that the Government [of Burma] could show its sincerity in achieving peace and progress for the people of Myanmar [Burma] by freeing all prisoners of conscience, including Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, to take part in these momentous elections.”
“Such a release of prisoners of conscience would allow political parties that have decided against participation to reconsider, and would facilitate the active participation of all citizens in this landmark process,” he added.
While the upcoming election, to be held for the first time in 20 years, was important, the junta needed to ensure that these elections were credible – they must be open to full participation, they must be transparent and they must be conducted in a manner that allowed for free and fair choice by the people of Burma – the envoy said.
While Burma’s military rulers are yet to announce the date for the elections, in early March they announced an electoral law, which the Burmese main opposition party, the National League for Democracy (NLD), led by detained Nobel Peace laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, says is unjust and unfair.
Following the laws’ announcement, the NLD declared it would not participate in the elections, saying the polls were designed to make the junta the sole winner and that they were against democratic principles. Several political parties, including some ethnic nationalities, have also rejected participation.
Burma’s junta, which took power in 1988, meanwhile, have been busy canvassing for the elections by making dozens of its generals, including Prime Minister Thein Sein, resign from his army post to contest the polls.
“In the context of preparations for these national elections, there have been disturbing reports of increasing tension between Myanmar’s [Burma’s] military forces and ceasefire groups,” Mr. Quintana said.
He reiterated his call on the Burmese junta to include all the people of Burma in the process of national reconciliation.
“I believe that it is not too late for the government to take affirmative action to move closer to the promise of peaceful transition and national reconciliation that would allow the people of Myanmar [Burma] greater enjoyment of human rights,” he said.