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Burma (Election)

Volume 504: debated on Tuesday 19 January 2010

We have maintained international pressure on the Burmese regime. We have lobbied China, India and Association of South East Nations members to recognise that only free and fair elections will lead to a stable and secure Burma. We support the UN Secretary-General’s continued engagement. Tough EU sanctions will remain in place in the absence of any progress.

Can the Minister give us an idea of whether any independent election monitoring teams will be allowed in to observe the elections?

I am afraid to say that we have no expectation that international observers will be allowed to observe the election. It must be clear that without the release of political prisoners and a commitment to an inclusive process in respect of opposition and ethnic groups, the forthcoming elections in Burma will not be recognised by the international community—indeed, they will be entirely illegitimate.

Does my hon. Friend agree that not only do we expect openness, transparency and people to be able to watch the election, but more importantly, we expect the democratic result to be accepted and the military junta not to interfere in the end result?

I agree entirely with my hon. Friend. There is only one difficulty: the constitution that underpins the election is deeply flawed. It is designed to perpetuate military rule in Burma. It is therefore important that there is no interference in the elections. As long as the elections are contested on the current constitution, whatever the outcome they cannot be recognised by the international community.

Do we not have to be realistic and realise that the elections will inevitably not be fair and democratic, but that they nevertheless present a real challenge for democracy campaigners within Burma? Will the Minister take his lead from the democracy movement, in particular the NLD, in determining the approach that is to be taken by this country in relation to the conduct and the outcome of the elections?

Of course, the hon. Gentleman is right. It is not for us to determine the decision by the opposition parties whether to participate in the forthcoming elections. It is equally important that the entire international community gives a united response to any election outcome. If there were any suggestion that some members of the international community attempted in any way to legitimise that outcome, that would be very dangerous in terms of strengthening the regime. What we seek to achieve is maximum unity of response on the basis that the election will be fought on a flawed constitution.