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Burma: Elections

Volume 472: debated on Tuesday 26 February 2008

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what steps his Department is taking to support democratic elections in Burma. (188542)

The UK has been at the forefront of international efforts to bring about inclusive national reconciliation and the establishment of accountable, civilian government in Burma.

As a permanent member of the UN Security Council, the UK has maintained the pressure for political change through active UN engagement and ensured that Burma remains on the Security Council’s agenda. The UK is also a member of the UN Secretary-General’s Group of Friends on Burma, which last met on 13 February. The group discussed the regime’s recent call for a referendum in May 2008 and elections in 2010. We stressed the need for the regime to demonstrate fundamental change before there could be international support for the process. The Group of Friends pressed for the early return of the UN Secretary-General’s Special Envoy to Burma, Professor Gambari, to help facilitate national reconciliation and a genuine democratic process.

In the EU, we have played a leading role in securing firm language on the newly announced referendum and election process at the February General Affairs and External Relations Council. The conclusions stated that only a process that involves the full participation of the opposition and ethnic groups will lead to national reconciliation and stability in Burma. The EU reiterated its call for the release of Aung Sang Suu Kyi and other political prisoners.

We keep in close contact with partners in the region, including the Association of South East Asian Nations, to build up constructive pressure on the Burmese government and their continued engagement on the Burma related issues. My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister has raised Burma with the Chinese and Indians on his recent visits to both countries. My right hon. Friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, Meg Munn, also reiterated our concerns to the Singaporean Ministry of Foreign Affairs on 18 February.

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will hold discussions with the Government of Burma on the banning of the Burmese opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi from standing in the 2010 election. (189417)

We have consistently made clear that only an inclusive process of national reconciliation can bring stability and prosperity to the country. The regime’s attempts to exclude Daw Aung San Suu Kyi from the political process are alarming and will exacerbate tension and instability in Burma. In our contacts with the military government, and those who have influence over them, we are stressing the need for all political actors, including Aung San Suu Kyi, to be allowed to play their full part in shaping the country’s future.