Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL), Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on Western Hemisphere, Transnational Crime, Civilian Security, Democracy, Human Rights, and Global Women’s Issues, today issued the following statement regarding the parliamentary elections in Burma earlier this week:
“I congratulate the people of Burma for their enthusiastic participation in parliamentary elections on November 8th, and for persevering in their demand for the right to choose their leaders in a genuinely competitive election. For over twenty years, the United States has supported the democratic struggle of the Burmese people and that support must continue in the years ahead.
“I also congratulate the party of Aung San Suu Kyi, the National League For Democracy (NLD), on what appears to be a significant victory. Based on results reported thus far, it appears the NLD will hold a large enough majority of parliament seats to form a government and elect the next leader of Burma. This election was a step in the right direction but I remain concerned that key elements of the electoral process were flawed. The Union Election Commission (UEC) exhibited consistent bias: I am concerned about reports of serious irregularities with advance voting as well as apparent delays in reporting results. I urge the UEC to post results expeditiously and transparently; given Burma’s political history, it is incumbent on the UEC to reassure the Burmese public that the counting and tabulation process is being conducted honestly. I am also concerned about the military’s use of the constitution to prevent Aung San Suu Kyi from holding the office of president.
“More than 700,000 Rohingyas and other minorities, as well as many other voters, were not allowed to cast a vote in this election. In order for Burma to move forward, the new government must seriously address issues of disenfranchisement, ensure the rights of marginalized communities, and take up the process of genuine peace and reconciliation with Burma’s ethnic nationalities. On this point, I welcome recent statements by Aung San Suu Kyi clearly stating that the NLD would lead a government that respects and protects the rights of minorities.
“I also urge the current ruling Union Solidarity and Development Party and the Burmese military to accept Aung San Suu Kyi’s invitation to enter into a dialogue of national reconciliation in order to ensure a smooth transfer of power. President Thein Sein’s words of congratulations for the NLD are a step in the right direction. The military must respect the clearly articulated demands of the Burmese people and work with the country’s newly elected leaders to remove barriers to the fulfillment of genuine democratic and popular rule of the country. The current arrangement whereby the military retains the balance of power is unacceptable in any society that aspires to democracy. One important way in which the commitment to a peaceful transfer of power can be demonstrated is the immediate and unconditional release of all remaining political prisoners, including those who are awaiting final disposition of their cases for political offenses. This would include student protesters arrested since February 2015 and those arrested for social media posts.
“This election was an important step in Burma’s political transition, but it is now time to ensure that the democratic will of the voters is respected.”