Ambassador Samantha Power
With today’s elections, the people of Burma marked an important event in their path to democracy, one that has seen many ups, downs and false starts over the years, and I congratulate them for taking this step toward a peaceful and inclusive future.
Following a competitive campaign period, millions of people from a wide range of political views participated in the election of their representatives, a step that would have seemed impossible even five years ago. At the same time, we must also acknowledge significant flaws and challenges that will need to be addressed going forward. We have consistently raised concerns that the constitution sets aside a quarter of the seats for the military, that the leader of the opposition is barred from seeking the presidency, that scores of candidates were disqualified in a non-transparent manner, and that virtually all Rohingya have been disenfranchised. These are fundamental issues of fairness and inclusivity. As President Obama said in Burma last year, “I know of no successful democracy in which sectarian or religious divisions are allowed to fester, or the people of different faiths are treated as second-class citizens.”
Democracy is not a one-day event, but an extended and painstaking process. To that end, the United States will be carefully observing the post-election vote counting process and will urge all parties to ensure votes are tabulated in a transparent and credible manner and that any credible complaints are addressed promptly and appropriately. In areas where votes were postponed, we urge the government to put forth a clear rationale for such postponement and a clear path for people to vote in the future. We also continue to urge calm in the coming days and weeks. A violence-free post-election period is crucial for Burma’s continued democratic development, and we call on all parties to counter harmful narratives of division and discrimination. We will also look to any new government to improve human rights protections— including by ensuring free expression, unconditionally releasing remaining political prisoners, protecting vulnerable populations, and enfranchising and ensuring human rights for the Rohingya population. We reiterate our call for any new government to cooperate fully with the United Nations in doing so, including by allowing the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights to open an office in Burma, as the government agreed to do during President Obama’s visit in 2012.
The people of Burma have made great strides, and endured great sacrifice. We look forward to the day when all of Burma’s people enjoy the full and free exercise of their democratic freedoms and human rights, and we stand with them on their path.