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Amnesty tells Asean credibility at stake in Myanmar elections

media An activist sings in front of a portrait of Aung San Suu Kyi during an … Photo: Reuters

Asean, the Association of South East Asian Nations, must push Myanmar to defend freedom of expression and other rights, according to Amnesty International. Ahead of Myanmar’s first election in two decades, the non-governmental organisation said on Sunday that it must “protect the rights to freedom of expression, peaceful assembly and association throughout the elections and beyond”.

“Its credibility [Asean] is clearly on the line. You can’t imagine a pre-election climate like this existing in the European Union for example,” Benjamin Zawacki, Amnesty’s Myanmar expert, told RFI.

“As Asean claims to be the Asian equivalent of the European Union, it has had Myanmar as a human-rights albatross around its neck now for 13 years,” say Zawacki.

“Its not showing signs of being terribly exercised about the continuance of these human rights violations. And until, unless it does so, its credibility will not only be at risk, I would argue that it’s yet to achieve the kind of credibility it claims to have.”

People are not afforded the political space to exercise their freedom of expression.

Benjamin Zawacki, Amnesty’s Myanmar expert 18/07/2010 - by Jessica Phelan Listen

Anmesty made the comments ahead of Asean’s annual talks in Vietnam on Monday.

Asean’s foreign ministers are set to reiterate the organisation’s calls for a free, fair and inclusive election, according to a draft communiqué obtained by the AFP news agency.

Many critics say the poll is designed to legitimise the military regime’s grip on power. The National League for Democracy led by detained activist Aung San Suu Kyi is boycotting the vote because of the country’s electoral law.

Suu Kyi’s party would be forced to expel her and other party members in prison, under the rules.

A date for the election has yet to be announced.

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