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Myanmar Foreign Minister Pledges Free, Fair, Credible Election: ASEAN

Myanmar's foreign minister informed his counterparts of the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) that his country's first elections in two decades, to be held this year, would be "free, fair and credible."

Surin Pitsuwan, ASEAN secretary general, said Thursday that this was conveyed by its Foreign Minister Nyan Win at a dinner Wednesday in Vietnam with his counterparts from the grouping.

"That was done last night (Wednesday night) and it was assured that it will be this year, and it will be free, fair and credible," he told reporters on the sidelines of the conference of the foreign ministers in Vietnam.

Stating that ASEAN was informed of no date for holdlig the elections, but everything was moving on course, Surin said the bloc's ministers expressed their "high hope that the Myanmar issue will be resolved this year and that we can move on to the new era of ASEAN relations and cooperation with the international community."

ASEAN, which has a founding principle of non-interference in the affairs of its members, has been criticized by many western nations, including the U.S., for not taking a firmer stand on the former British colony, separated from India in 1937.

Last month, the United Nations General Assembly called on Myanmar to hold free and fair elections that would allow all political parties to participate in them.

Also, the United States and ASEAN agreed in November that Myanmar's scheduled elections this year must be "free, fair, inclusive and transparent" to be credible, and called for pro-democracy leader and Nobel Peace laureate Aung San Suu Kyi to be allowed to participate in them.

Her National League for Democracy (NLD) party won a landslide victory in the last elections held in 1990. But the junta, which grabbed power in March 1962, never honored the results, and gradually tightened its hold on power since then.

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