WASHINGTON: US President Barack Obama has called for an “inclusive and credible” elections process next year in Myanmar, where President Thein Sein was set to hold an unprecedented political summit on Friday (Oct 31) with his rivals.
Obama made the comment in telephone talks with Thein Sein, during which the pair also discussed the US president’s visit to Myanmar next month, the White House said on Thursday. “The president welcomed the commitment of Thein Sein and his government to the peace process and said every effort should be made to conclude a national ceasefire in the short term,” the statement said.
Obama “underscored the need for an inclusive and credible process for conducting the 2015 elections” and emphasised Washington’s “firm commitment to helping the people of Burma achieve a more free, open, and prosperous nation.” He also asked Thein Sein to take “additional steps” to bring peace to the western state of Rakhine, where two waves of deadly violence in 2012 between Buddhists and minority Rohingya Muslims left about 200 people dead and around 140,000 displaced, mainly Rohingya.
Thein Sein convened a meeting on Friday of army top brass and his political rivals including Aung San Suu Kyi – the first talks of their kind in the country as it moves to emerge from decades of outright military rule. The meeting comes just days after Myanmar’s election authorities announced the upcoming poll would be held in the last week of October or the first week of November 2015.
Thein Sein’s government has pledged that the vote will be the freest in the modern history of the country, where the military ceded direct power three years ago.
Obama also spoke with Suu Kyi about the upcoming elections, and how Washington can “support efforts to promote tolerance, respect for diversity, and a more inclusive political environment,” the White House said. “Obama expressed his appreciation for Aung San Suu Kyi’s work to promote a more democratic Burma,” it added.
Myanmar’s last general elections in 2010 were marred by widespread accusations of cheating and were held without the National League for Democracy or Suu Kyi, the Nobel peace laureate who was kept under lock and key until days after the vote.
Since then, Thein Sein has implemented a number of dramatic reforms, and Suu Kyi has entered parliament. Her party is expected to win a good number of seats in the legislature in next year’s polls, and parliament will select a president.
But the 69-year-old Suu Kyi – who spent more than a decade under house arrest during the years under military rule – is currently barred from taking the top job by the constitution because her late spouse and children are foreign nationals.