Burma May Allow ASEAN to Observe By-Elections

Posted February 21st, 2012 at 1:38 am (UTC-5)
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The Association of Southeast Asian Nations says it has won a promise from Burmese officials to “seriously consider” letting it send a team to observe coming by-elections.

The regional bloc said Tuesday that Burmese President Thein Sein made the pledge in a meeting in the country's administrative capital, Naypyitaw, with a delegation headed by ASEAN Secretary-General Dr. Surin Pitsuwan.

ASEAN said the two leaders agreed that such a move will advance the international goodwill that Burma has earned with a series of democratic reforms.

It said the president told the delegates Burma's top priority is job creation so that more of its citizens can return home from counties like Thailand and Malaysia where they have traveled in search of work.

The apparent concession to ASEAN is the latest in a series of signs that Burma's government is anxious to send a positive signal to the world through the by-elections, in which opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi will challenge for one of 43 parliamentary seats at stake.

On Monday, the government moved to lift some restrictions on political organizing within hours after Aung San Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy complained the restrictions threatened the fairness of the April 1 by-elections.

NLD campaign manager Nyan Win had complained at a press conference that the party had been prevented from holding election rallies at football stadiums in three constituencies, and had stopped it from organizing in a village in restive Kachin state.

Several Western governments are deciding whether to lift stiff economic sanctions on Burma, and say the conduct of the by-elections will be a factor.