PHNOM PENH—Southeast Asian leaders on Tuesday called for the lifting of international sanctions on Burma after the country’s historic by-elections, a senior Cambodian official said at a regional summit here.
Leaders of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) “call for the lifting of all sanctions on Myanmar (Burma),” Cambodian Secretary of State Kao Kim Hourn told reporters on the sidelines of the Asean leaders’ summit.
“The lifting of sanctions would contribute positively to the democratic process and especially economic development of Myanmar,” he said, quoting leaders inside the closed-door summit room.
The by-elections were a resounding victory for democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy, and saw the former political prisoner and Nobel laureate win a seat in parliament for the first time.
An Agence France-Presse report said Suu Kyi’s party, the NLD, won at least 43 of the 44 parliamentary seats it had contested.
If the results are confirmed, Suu Kyi will lead a small bloc of NLD lawmakers in the military-dominated parliament.
Burmese President Thein Sein assured the other leaders of the 10-nation bloc that Sunday’s elections were “transparent, free and fair, so he accepts the result,” Kao said. “So the Asean leaders congratulated and praised Myanmar about the election result.”
President Benigno Aquino III joined Asean leaders in congratulating Burma for holding a peaceful and successful elections on April 1.
Presidential spokesperson Edwin Lacierda said Mr. Aquino congratulated Thein Sein during the plenary session of Asean leaders held here at the Peace Palace.
“In fact, the President mentioned that the elections … enhance the long-term stability of Myanmar which in turn enhances the long-term stability of Asean,” Lacierda told reporters.
He said Asean leaders were informed during the plenary session about the successful holding of the elections.
Lacierda quoted Asean Secretary General Surin Pitsuwan as saying that Asean was “pleased with the democratic exercise and (Myanmar) performed beyond expectation.”
In a statement issued by the Asean chair’s observer delegation on the April 1 elections in Burma, it said that the success of the polls was “another significant step for Myanmar in its process of democratic reform and signifies the realization of the country’s 7-step roadmap to democracy.”
“We urge the international community to consider lifting economic sanctions on Myanmar so that the people of Myanmar can enjoy better opportunities in realizing their aspirations for peace, national reconciliation, democracy and national development,” said the statement.
March toward democracy
The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) hailed Burma for holding “historic by-elections” that it called “a milestone in what appears to be Rangoon’s inexorable march toward democracy.”
The DFA statement noted that Sunday’s parliamentary elections in Burma were “orderly, free and transparent,” as witnessed by the Philippines’ observer team.
It described the elections as a “breakthrough” in Burma’s modern history because opposition parties, led by Suu Kyi’s NLD, took part.
“While it may take a few more days before the results can be certified, the real winners of this election are the Myanmar people and the Myanmar government under the leadership of President Thein Sein, who have been able to work together and make this change possible,” the DFA said.
The election opens Burma’s prospects not only for political reform but also for socioeconomic liberalization and development, it said.
Encouraged by the opposition’s sweep of the vote, Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario reiterated Manila’s call to the international community to consider lifting the sanctions against Burma.
Del Rosario was in Phnom Penh, attending the 20th Asean Meeting. He said the Burmese foreign minister briefed Asean foreign ministers during their meeting on Monday on Burma’s “peaceful and successful” elections.
Vindication for Asean
“We’re happy about the reports that it was successful and peaceful, and we congratulate the people of Myanmar,” Del Rosario said. The vote, he said, was a “vindication” for Asean, as it showed the global community that Burma could successfully move toward democracy.
During an official trip to Burma in early February, Del Rosario met with Suu Kyi at her Rangoon residence where he wished her victory in the elections.
In a text message to the Philippine Daily Inquirer from the Burmese capital, Del Rosario said he and Suu Kyi “discussed reforms toward democracy and national reconciliation and the need for sustainability.”
Del Rosario said they also declared the Philippines’ “support for the lifting of sanctions against Burma and offered our proposal to develop Philippine-Burmese parliamentary friendship.”
He described his trip to Burma as “significant,” noting that it was “taking place when Burma is at its crossroads of history.”
Suu Kyi was released from house arrest shortly after parliamentary elections in 2010.
Her party won a landslide victory in 1990 elections, but was not allowed by the ruling military junta to take power. Reports from AFP and Jerry E. Esplanada in Manila
Originally posted at 06:29 pm | Tuesday, April 03, 2012