Burma Invites US, EU to Observe April 1 Balloting

Posted March 21st, 2012 at 6:00 am (UTC-5)
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U.S. and European officials say they have been invited to send teams to observe Burma's April 1 by-elections.

An official at the U.S. Embassy in Rangoon confirmed the invitation to VOA and other news organizations Wednesday — a day after the Association of Southeast Asian Nations said it had received a similar invitation.

The invitations mark a reversal from controversial elections in 2010, which brought to power a government dominated by close allies of the former military government. However the new administration has introduced a series of reforms, including permitting the opposition National League for Democracy and its leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, to participate in the by-elections.

U.S. Embassy spokeswoman Adrienne Nutzman said the invitations have been extended to ASEAN dialogue partners, including the United States and the European Union. She called it “notable” that the invitation provides for some journalists from the countries to visit as well, saying the move demonstrates increased openness to foreign media.

On Tuesday, ASEAN officials said the group had been invited to send a five-member team and that each of its 10 member countries would be permitted to send a separate team of two legislators and three media representatives.

Nutzman said the United States is encouraged by the latest invitation. But another embassy official was quoted by the French news agency as calling for the Burmese government to address reports of irregularities in the voting process and allegations of intimidation.

Several countries have said the April 1 elections will be a crucial test of the Burmese government's commitment to reform.