US envoy calls for free and fair Myanmar polls

March 14, 2012 - 11:26 AM
Myanmar US

Derek Mitchell, left, U.S special envoy to Myanmar, talks to journalists during a press conference after meeting with Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, right, at her lakeside residence Wednesday, March 14, 2012, in Yangon, Myanmar. (AP Photo/Khin Maung Win)

YANGON, Myanmar (AP) — A U.S. special envoy reiterated Washington's hope that by-elections in Myanmar will be conducted freely, fairly and transparently, as he visited the Southeast Asian country Wednesday.

Derek Mitchell, making his sixth visit here in seven months, said he had "very productive, very fruitful, very candid, honest and straightforward" meetings with government officials and other parties ahead of the April 1 polls.

"This issue of a free, fair, transparent election is very important to us in terms of demonstrating in tangible terms commitment to democracy that they have assured us that they are on the road toward, " he told reporters after meeting with opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

The U.S. imposed political and economic sanctions on Myanmar due to the repressive policies of its previous army regime, but it has encouraged reforms taken by the elected though military-backed government that took power last year.

President Thein Sein's government seeks to have sanctions lifted in order to spur economic development. The European Union also imposes sanctions, and like the United States, has said it will judge Myanmar's progress toward democracy in part on how it conducts the by-elections.

Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy party will be contesting all 48 parliamentary seats at stake in the polls. Her party boycotted the 2010 general election as unfair and undemocratic.

It agreed to rejoin electoral politics after the law was changed to accommodate some of its objections.

Suu Kyi has recently expressed concern about the possibility of electoral fraud, charging that voter lists contain the names of deceased people.

Noting that issue and others Wednesday, she said, "We would very much like the world to watch what's going on to ensure that the elections are everything they should be."