Myanmar defends rights record, vows credible polls

The world's eyes will turn to Myanmar on Sunday, when the country holds its first election since the military junta ceded power.

AFP| Updated: Nov 06, 2015, 19:05 PM IST

Geneva: Myanmar defended its human rights record on Friday, two days before a landmark election, as Western powers including the United States and Britain voiced serious concern over persisting violations.

"Myanmar is changing for the better in all sectors and with full transparency," legal advisor to the presidency, Sit Aye, told the Human Rights Council in Geneva, as a delegation from the country insisted they had addressed the international community's major concerns.

The world's eyes will turn to Myanmar on Sunday, when the country holds its first election since the military junta which ruled for nearly half a century ceded power to a quasi-civilian government.

The country on Friday was undergoing a so-called Universal Periodic Review of its rights record before the UN's top rights body -- which all 193 UN countries must submit to every four years.

Britain's ambassador to the UN in Geneva, Julian Braithwaite, noted Myanmar's "very significant progress", but said that "many concerns remain", specifically highlighting the mistreatment of ethnic Rohingya Muslims.

Sunday's election has been billed as the freest Myanmar has seen in decades, but the military-backed ruling party has faced continuing criticism over restrictions on freedoms religion, assembly, expression and minority rights.

"A vote that is credible, inclusive, transparent and which represents the will of people would stand as a lasting legacy for the government," Braithwaite said.

Those comments were echoed by the Jessica Carl, political officer at the US embassy, who said Sunday's polls offered Myanmar a chance to take "a significant step towards democracy."

The US, however, remained "troubled by forced labour, intercommunal tensions and government actions that have rendered members of the Rohingya population stateless", as well as laws that restrict basic rights, Carl said.

Opposition icon Aung San Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy (NLD) is eyeing an outright majority but he army-backed Union and Solidarity Development Party (USDP) is the main obstacle to a historic NLD win.

Myanmar's Attorney General Tun Shin assured the council that Sunday's vote would be "free and fair," noting that "international observers from all over the world are now in Myanmar."

Myanmar, Tun added, "is making every effort for a democratic society."