In another sign of the political changes taking place in Burma since the coming of civilian rule there last year, the government has invited the United States, European Union and its neighboring countries to send observers to its April 1 by-elections.
After years of house arrest, pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi is a candidate for one of the 48 parliamentary seats being contested, in an election widely seen as a test of the political reforms. It is the first time that foreign poll monitors are being allowed in Burma, which was long dominated by military rule.
The United States is encouraged that authorities have invited international representatives as observers for the April 1 balloting, which is an important milestone on the country’s road to democracy. It is notable that the Burmese government will also allow some foreign journalists to observe the process, demonstrating increased openness to the press.
At the same time, however, we are concerned by reports of irregularities, local intimidation and a recent attack on National League for Democracy supporters in Naypyitaw. We call on the authorities to take the necessary steps to ensure that the election process is free and fair, and to ensure that all political parties understand there is no place for violent attacks and intimidation. Free and fair elections will demonstrate the government’s continued commitment to democratization and national reconciliation, and propel further momentum in relations between our two countries.