UNITED NATIONS?UN chief Ban Ki-moon on Friday called on Myanmar authorities to free all political detainees ahead of polls they plan to hold on November 7.
UN spokesman Martin Nesirky said Ban took note of the November 7 date set for Myanmar's first general elections in two decades and urged the ruling junta "to release all remaining political prisoners without delay so that they can freely participate in the political life of their country."
Although he did not specifically name her, the UN secretary general clearly had in mind democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi, who has spent much of the past 20 years in detention and is seen as the biggest threat to the military regime.
Suu Kyi, whose National League for Democracy (NLD) won a landslide victory in 1990 but was never allowed to take office, is barred from standing in the polls because she is in prison.
The NLD decided not to contest the vote because of rules laid down by the junta that in effect would have forced it to expel Suu Kyi and other members in prison in order to participate.
Ban, who has repeatedly lobbied for the release of Suu Kyi and other political detainees in Myanmar, also renewed his appeal to the ruling junta "to honor their publicly stated commitments to hold inclusive, free and fair elections in order to advance the prospects of peace, democracy and development for Myanmar."
"As essential steps for any national reconciliation and democratic transition process, the Secretary General strongly urges the authorities to ensure that fundamental freedoms are upheld for all citizens for Myanmar," Nesirky said.
Myanmar dissidents say the ruling generals are taking no chances this time, reserving one quarter of the seats in parliament for the military and crafting election rules to make sure that junta-backed parties have the upper hand.
So far 40 parties have been allowed to register for the polls, but some are already expressing concerns about conditions for the vote.