UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon (file photo)
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon (file photo)

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon says the government of Burma must create conditions that give all stakeholders the opportunity to participate freely in elections, if the vote is to be viewed as fair and credible.

Mr. Ban spoke to reporters after a meeting of his so-called Group of Friends of Myanmar, the other name by which Burma is known.

He said the 15 governments which make up the group discussed developments following the military government's announcement earlier this month of the new election law.

The law has raised international concerns because one of its provisions prohibits anyone serving a prison term from voting or being a member of a political party.

That would effectively ban National League for Democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi and other political prisoners from participating in the general election.

No date has been set for the vote, which would be the country's first in 20 years.

Mr. Ban said the electoral law and the overall electoral environment so far fall short of what is needed for an inclusive political process.  

Speaking on behalf of the Group of Friends, Mr. Ban said they urged the elections be inclusive, participatory and transparent.

"We encourage all parties to work in the national interest," Mr. Ban said. "The government must create conditions that give all stakeholders the opportunity to participate freely in elections. This includes the release of all political prisoners - including Daw Aung San Suu Kyi - and respect for fundamental freedoms."

Aung San Suu Kyi, who has been in detention for 14 of the last 20 years, has said she is opposed to her party registering for the vote, but that the NLD (National League for Democracy) must decide for itself whether to participate in the election.

Mr. Ban said if that is her genuine belief, then "we have to respect it." But he expressed some reservations, saying he did not know the circumstances surrounding her statement.

On Wednesday, the U.N. Security Council had its first briefing on Burma in more than six months. British Ambassador Mark Lyall Grant said many council members expressed their concern about the electoral laws, which he said appeared to target Aung San Suu Kyi and her opposition party.