US wants election observers in Myanmar referendum

Other News Materials 19 March 2008 06:29 (UTC +04:00)

The United States on Tuesday asked the UN Security Council to pressure the military government in Myanmar to allow international election observers for a constitutional referendum planned for May. ( dpa )

US ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad said the preparations for the vote are reason for concern, citing the fact that the text of the proposal had not yet been released.

Myanmar's ruling junta has pledged to hold a referendum to seek public approval for a draft constitution that will then pave the way for a general election sometime in 2010.

The military-appointed national convention set up by the regime to draft the constitution - a process that took 14 years - has been judged a "sham" by many international observers.

United Nations special envoy Ibrahim Gambari, who was in Myanmar last week, requested that the regime allow for international monitors to observe the referendum process and assure it is free and fair.

His request was rejected.

The Security Council is divided over the next step, with China opposing a public statement on the issue.

Since 1962, Myanmar has been ruled by a military regime that has earned itself one of the world's worst human rights records after two brutal crackdowns on pro-democracy movements in 1988 and last September. Thousands of political dissidents, including Nobel Peace Prize laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, have been arrested under their rule.

The last general election held in Myanmar, also known as Burma, was in 1990. The National League for Democracy (NLD) party led by Suu Kyi won that election by a landslide, but they have been blocked from assuming power for the past 18 years on the military's argument that the country required a new constitution before civilian rule could occur.

Suu Kyi has spent 12 of the past 18 years under house arrest in her Yangon home.