Thursday, February 25, 2010

Malaysia calls on Myanmar to free Suu Kyi ahead of polls

KUALA LUMPUR — Malaysia Tuesday called on military-run Myanmar to free opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi ahead of national elections it expects to be held around October.
"We want a free, fair and an inclusive election. We should give everybody a chance, including Aung San Suu Kyi," Foreign Minister Anifah Aman told AFP, adding he thought the vote would be held "around October".
"We hope she will be freed. We feel that giving all a chance is democracy. Then it becomes a legitimate election," he added.
Myanmar's junta has pledged to hold elections in 2010, but has not set a date for the polls, which would be the first since 1990, when it refused to recognise a landslide win by Aung San Suu Kyi's party.
The opposition National League for Democracy (NLD) and ethnic minorities have been deeply suspicious about the election, fearing the junta will use it to legitimise its rule.
Anifah said the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) had taken a common stand in urging Myanmar to proceed with its vaunted "roadmap to democracy".
"All the ASEAN countries say: 'Let's have a free and fair election'," he said.
Malaysia had relatively close ties with Myanmar in the past, but the relationship cooled in recent years as Malaysia took a tougher line on the military regime.
Philippine Foreign Secretary Alberto Romulo said earlier this month that Myanmar's elections are likely to be held around September but that they are shaping up to be a "farce" with Aung San Suu Kyi unable to run.
Suu Kyi, 64, has been held in detention at her lakeside villa in the Myanmar capital Yangon for 14 of the past 20 years.
US President Barack Obama's administration has called for a free election in Myanmar as part of its policy of engagement with the reclusive nation, which is under tight sanctions imposed by the US and European nations.