TUESDAY, 21 FEBRUARY 2012
Burma’s President Thein Sein has told the visiting head of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) that the country may allow observers from the regional bloc to monitor by-elections in April.
According to a statement released by Asean on Tuesday, Thein Sein told the grouping’s secretary general, Surin Pitsuwan, that Naypyidaw “will seriously consider having observers from Asean and the Asean Secretariat during the April elections.”
Surin is currently leading a delegation from the Asean Secretariat on a four-day visit to Burma.
Thein Sein and Surin also agreed that such a move will boost transparency, which will add to the international goodwill that Burma has attracted so far.
Besides the election, the two leaders also discussed other issues.
“Job creation is our top priority. We want to create as many jobs as we can, so Myanmar [Burmese] workers can work in the country, and ease the burden on our neighboring countries like Thailand and Malaysia,” Thein Sein said.
He added that plans for a deep-sea port, as well as special industrial zones, are already in the pipeline to meet the objective of job creation.
The Asean chief arrived in Burma on Monday to assess the country’s readiness to assume the chairmanship of the regional grouping in 2014.
Information Minister Kyaw Hsan, who also met Surin, said that plans and preparations are underway to make sure Burma is ready for the 2013 Southeast Asia Games, as well as chairing the Asean Meetings in 2014.
He agreed with Surin that Burma can learn from the experience of other Asean members and the Asean Secretariat in hosting major events and meetings.
Burma’s foreign minister, Wunna Maung Lwin, also gave his assurances that Burma is ready and willing to cooperate with the rest of Asean in meeting its commitment to the region. But he added that the lifting of sanctions would help matters a lot more.
The United States and other countries with sanctions on Burma have said that a free and fair election in April will be key to deciding how soon the punitive measures are lifted.
Burma’s bid for the Asean chairmanship was approved by other members of the bloc last November, at around the same time that the opposition National League for Democracy announced that it would register to contest the by-elections after boycotting a general election in November 2010.
Under the previous military regime, Burma was forced to skip its turn in 2006 to chair Asean in the face of international condemnation of its record of human rights violations and lack of democratic progress.
Photo : asean