3 October 2009 SIEM REAP, Cambodia – Myanmar’s foreign minister promised Saturday his country would hold ‘free and fair’ elections next year, despite the detention of democracy campaigner Aung San Suu Kyi.
‘In my country free and fair elections will be held. We have already announced it,’ Myanmar foreign minister Nyan Win told reporters after a meeting with counterparts in Cambodia’s northwestern tourist hub.
‘(Whether) the elections are free and fair or not, so far no one can judge it. After the elections will be held, you can judge whether the elections are free and fair or not.’
A Myanmar court Friday rejected an appeal by Suu Kyi against her conviction over an incident in which a US man swam uninvited to her home in May, earning her an extra 18 months’ detention.
The sentence sidelines her from the elections promised for 2010, leading critics to say the polls are a sham.
The minister made the remarks after meeting with the foreign ministers of Japan, Cambodia, Thailand, Laos and Vietnam for talks intended to foster development within the Mekong region.
Myanmar has been under military rule since 1962, and the junta refused to acknowledge the landslide win of Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy party in the last elections in 1990.
Japanese foreign minister Katsuya Okada said the talks raised ‘Myanmar-related questions’.
‘We hope that Aung San Suu Kyi will be released and transparent elections will be conducted with the participation of all political parties,’ he told reporters.
Myanmar’s foreign minister told his counterparts that ‘democracy can’t be imposed from outside,’ Japanese foreign ministry spokesman Kazuo Kodama said.
Japan’s new government has voiced hopes of fostering ties with countries in the Mekong region.
Suu Kyi, who has spent much of the last 20 years in detention, had a rare meeting with junta minister Aung Kyi Saturday, in which her lawyer said they probably discussed how to end Western sanctions against Myanmar.