U.N. has eye on Myanmar by-elections

March 13, 2012 at 12:19 PM

GENEVA, Switzerland, March 13 (UPI) -- Upcoming by-elections in Myanmar will be a test of the government's commitment to political reform, a U.N. human rights envoy said.

Myanmar has elections April 1 to fill 48 seats in the country's Senate and lower house of Parliament. Foreign governments have praised Myanmar's apparent steps toward democracy, though concerns over prisoners of conscious, human rights and ethnic tensions remain.

Tomas Ojea Quintana, the U.N. special envoy on the human rights situation in Myanmar, told the U.N. Human Rights Council in Geneva that the upcoming elections would be a "key test" for the government.

"It is essential that they are truly free, fair, inclusive and transparent," he said.

The opposition National League for Democracy Party said that some candidates, including Nobel Peace Prize laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, faced "difficulties, inconveniences and harassment" during campaign rallies.

Some prisoners of conscious released this year said political reforms were window dressing.

"It is clear that there are ongoing and serious human rights concerns that remain to be addressed," said Quintana. "These cannot be ignored in the rush to reform and to move forward."

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