Foreign Office Minister on Burma : "these are not free, fair, open elections"

This speech was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

Minister for South East Asia and Far East Jeremy Browne discusses Burma's elections on BBC News.

Martine Croxall: Well Jeremy Browne is the Foreign Office Minister responsible for South East Asia and the Far East. He’s in our Westminster studio now. Mr Browne welcome.

Jeremy Browne: Good afternoon.

MC: How much real change do you think these elections herald in Burma?

JB: Well our position, the British Government’s position, is that these are not free, fair, open elections. There are over two thousand political prisoners in Burma. There are people who would like to have been candidates in this election but were prevented from standing. A quarter of the seats in the Parliament are reserved for the military, so the elections are only covering the remaining three quarters. And so our view is you can’t have an election conducted under those circumstances which provides a proper expression of public opinion in a country. And for those reasons we don’t think that these elections, as I said, are free and fair.

MC: How does the British Government make those concerns known then to the military junta in Burma?

JB: We, we make them known the whole time, and I was speaking to our Ambassador in Burma this morning and we have a presence on the ground, we make it very clear not just in Burma, but actually in the European Union, in the United Nations and other forums that we have a very strong view that Burma is not a liberal, open, democratic country.

And the real losers from that, actually, aren’t the people watching this programme now, most of whom are in Britain. The real losers are the people in Burma because that region of the world is really going forward with a real pace, rising prosperity. There are lots of countries, the Philippines and Malaysia and Singapore, that part of the world, is by and large a real success story and one country that is really being left behind is Burma. So we want to see real change in Burma for the Burmese people who deserve it.

MC: What, don’t you think it would have been a good idea though for Aung San Suu Kyi, the, the woman who everyone associates with the Pro Democracy Movement in Burma, to put her name on the ballot, or at least members of her party to, to, to show that they’re taking part and to expose the, the problems with the way that they’re being run?

JB: Well there are, there are different views as I understand it within Burma. There are some opposed to the regime who think that the election should be boycotted and there are others opposed to the regime who are enthusiastic about participating. And I think that’s, that’s ultimately up to them. Of course Aung San Suu Kyi is under house arrest so if you want an example of somebody whose freedom is curtailed as a, as a result of the policies of the regime there is no better example than her.

MC: Jeremy Browne, we appreciate you taking time to talk to us, thank you.