Myanmar to release political prisoners to participate in 2010 elections

[JURIST] Myanmar is processing grants of amnesty [press release; recorded video, RealPlayer] to prisoners to allow them to participate in the 2010 general elections, ambassador U Than Swe told the UN Security Council [official website] on Monday. Additionally, Swe maintained that the country intended to implement other recommendations proposed by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon [official profile; JURIST news archive]. The Security Council meeting followed Ban's visit to Myanmar earlier this month to address "several serious and long-standing concerns." During his visit, Ban met with head of state Senior General Than Shwe and Prime Minister General Thein Sein to discuss issues that could undermine the country's political process and to make recommendations including the release of political prisoners such as Aung San Suu Kyi [BBC profile; JURIST news archive], resumption of talks between government and opposition officials and creating conditions for legitimate elections next year. The Secretary-General discussed his visit to the country and the need for fair elections:

My visit offered the clearest signal of the United Nations’ commitment to work with the Government and people of Myanmar to address issues that are of fundamental importance for the prospects of durable peace, democracy and development. ... I have made clear my expectation and that of the international community that the Government needs to deliver on the promise to make the 2010 elections inclusive, free and fair, and to take necessary steps on my specific proposals in the very near future.
Swe told the Council that Ban's visit was successful and that the government would cooperate with the UN's requests. Although the government did not arrange a requested meeting between Ban and Aung San Suu Kyi, Swe explained that Senior General Than Shwe was willing to allow such a meeting but that the court had independent jurisdiction over the matter.

Myanmar's political tension is exemplified by the recent trial of Nobel Laureate Aung San Suu Kyi. The pro-democracy advocate faces charges of violating the terms of her house arrest for allowing an American to stay with her after he swam across a lake to visit. Her arrest was controversial and highly criticized [JURIST report] by the international community. She has spent 12 of the past 18 years in prison or under house arrest for alleged violations of an anti-subversion law [text, PDF]. After many delays, Suu Kyi's trial resumed last week [JURIST report] with new witness testimony. It is unclear whether Suu Kyi will be among the prisoners released to participate in the elections. Last month, a Myanmar court sentenced two members of the National League of Democracy [party website] to 18 months in prison after convicting them of insulting religion by leading prayers for Suu Kyi's release.

 

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