During a visit from Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird, Myanmar’s pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi expressed concern over dead people appearing on voter rolls. Ms. Suu Kyi supposedly told Mr. Baird that “a lot of dead people seem to be prepared to vote on the first of April”.
Mr. Baird, in a statement, said he was “very concerned to learn about a good number of irregularities” on voters list and emphasized the point that Canada and the rest of the world “will be watching, in particular, the by-elections on April 1”. However, he also praised Burma’s government for its commitment to reform, but mentioned that “the true test will be in the weeks and months that follow [the elections]”.
Ms. Suu Kyi said that she had already informed the election commission about the problem, although it remains to be seen whether anything will be done about it. She was presented with an honorary Canadian citizen certificate during the visit.
Mr. Baird is the first Canadian minister sent to Myanmar to meet President Thein Sein and other officials. His trip comes three months after US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said that she was encouraged by actions taken by Mr. Thein Sein’s government to stop decades of repression and isolation. Canada imposed sanctions on Myanmar in 1988, which include a ban on military exports and denying visas to senior officials.
Meanwhile, Myanmar’s government is holding talks with ethnic Kachin armed rebels. Over the past year, the government has managed to sign provisional ceasefires with several armed ethnic groups as part of political reform. Despite this, progress within the Kachin state has been slow, and attempts to cease the fighting there have proved to be difficult. The Kachin have refused to sign any agreement until political issues are resolved.
Since one of the conditions imposed by the West before the lifting of its sanctions is national reconciliation, Myanmar's government hopes to reach a ceasefire deal with the Kachin as soon as possible.
Report: Dead people on Myanmar voter rolls: Suu Kyi [AFP, 9 March 2012]
Report: Burma holds peace talks with ethnic Kachin rebels [BBC, 8 March 2012]