UN Security Council Hails Burmese By-elections

By Lalit K Jha 12 April 2012

WASHINGTON D.C.—The United Nations Security Council has hailed April’s successful by-elections in Burma and praised the Burmese government and opposition for their commitment to moving the country forward.

Susan Rice, US ambassador to the world body, made the comments following a meeting of the 15-member council to discuss Burma. Rice has assumed the presidency of the UN Security Council for the month of April.

“Council members welcomed the successful by-election as a historic and critical step on the path to consolidating and strengthening Myanmar’s democratic reforms,” Rice told reporters after the Wednesday meeting.

“They praised the government and the opposition for their conduct of the by-election and for their commitment to moving the country forward,” she added. “Council members emphasized that Myanmar’s reforms were still fragile and nascent and in need of the international community’s support.”

But a number of members voiced concerns about ongoing fighting in ethnic minority areas and the continued detention of hundreds of political prisoners, said Rice.

This was the first meeting of the Security Council to discuss Burma since the April 1 by-elections which saw pro-democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy party win 43 out of 45 contested seats.

The meeting was initially scheduled for Tuesday, but was pushed back a day for unknown reasons.

UN Special Adviser on Burma Vijai Nambiar, who recently made a visit to the military-dominated nation to observe the ballot process, explained to the Security Council that the election proceeded in a transparent, credible and peaceful manner.

“While some minor irregularities were reported, Mr. Nambiar said there were no indications that these had affected the outcome. He told council members that the election of opposition National League for Democracy candidates—including Nobel Laureate Aung San Suu Kyi—to Parliament offers a historic opportunity for more inclusive political dialogue in the country,” Rice said.

“Special Adviser Nambiar said the United Nations would continue to promote democratic reform, encourage national reconciliation and support Myanmar’s economic development,” she added. “He explained the Secretary-General [Ban Ki-moon] plans to visit the country later this month.”

Responding to questions, Rice said the council also discussed the current situation in Kachin State where an estimated 70,000 refugees have fled fighting near their homes to live in temporary camps by the Sino-Burmese border. “Various member states expressed concern about Kachin,” said Rice.