Philippines urges Myanmar to reconsider rejection of poll observers
( dpa )- Philippine President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo on Sunday urged Myanmar's junta to reconsider its rejection of a UN proposal to allow observers at its constitutional referendum planned for May.
In a statement, Arroyo said it was "a sad day for democracy" and the South-east Asian region that Myanmar rejected the proposal made by UN envoy Ibrahim Gambari in talks with election officials on Friday.
"A central pillar of democracy is a free and fair election," she said. "Outside observers are not a threat to any nation's sovereignty. Rather, the participation of outside election observers is a sign of strength.
"It is not too late for the government of Myanmar to accept the proposal by the UN," she added. "It is a small but modest step towards democratization that is long over due in Myanmar."
Myanmar, formerly called Burma, will hold a referendum on an unspecified date in May to endorse a controversial draft constitution compiled over the past 14 years by a military-appointed forum.
The proposed constitution enshrines the military's role as a powerful political force in any future elected government.
The date of the referendum will be announced 21 days prior to the event. It will be followed by a general election in 2010 as part of the ruling junta's "seven step road map" to democracy.
Myanmar and the Philippines are both members of the Association of South-East Asian Nations, which has been criticized in the past for failing to put more pressure on the military-ruled country to hasten democratic reforms.