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Upcoming by-elections are a 'crucial moment' for Myanmar, says UN expert

30 March 2012 – The upcoming by-elections in Myanmar will be a “crucial moment” in history for the country and a key test for the Government on the progress made implementing democratic reforms, a United Nations independent expert said today.

“This is a crucial moment in Myanmar’s history,” said the UN Special Rapporteur on the human rights situation in Myanmar, Tomás Ojea Quintana. “I have consistently stressed that the next round of elections should be truly free, fair, inclusive and transparent, but the credibility of Sunday’s vote will not be determined solely on the day, but in the lead-up to and following election day.”

Independent experts, or special rapporteurs, are appointed by the Human Rights Council to examine and report back on a country situation or a specific human rights theme. The positions are honorary and the experts are not United Nations, nor are they paid for their work.

Mr. Ojea Quintana said he was encouraged by the recent wave of reforms in Myanmar, including the release of a significant number of prisoners of conscience and the registration of a number of political parties, which represent a positive change in the human rights situation.

However, Mr. Ojea Quintana noted that due to electoral irregularities in the past, authorities must show clear political will to achieve a peaceful election and to establish public confidence and legitimacy for the country’s democratic transition.

“The flawed electoral process of the 2010 national elections, which failed to meet international standards, was a missed opportunity for Myanmar to address its challenges in democratisation,” he said. “It should not be repeated as Myanmar enters a new and more open era.”

Mr. Ojea Quintana also urged the Government to ensure respect for freedom of expression and opinion during the elections, in which 48 parliamentary seats will be contested.

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