By Danny Lee
Director, Community Affairs Development, The ASEAN Secretariat.


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ASEAN Secretariat Team Briefed at Min of Foreign Affairs

The old Ministry of Foreign Affairs building was bustling with activities early yesterday morning. As election observers, liaison officers, reporters, and camera crews busied themselves with passes and registrations, staff from the ministry were equally busy handling the endless stream of queries. Curiosity and enthusiasm were high.

Order was quickly restored just before Myanmar’s Foreign Minister Wunna Maung Lwin arrived to brief the gathering.

Myanmar wants to show the world it is serious and open with the monitoring process.

“Observers, and members of the media, you are free to travel without constraints,” said the minister.

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ASEAN Secretary Team Leader greets Minister of Foreign Affairs

The foreign delegation seated in front of me exchanged looks with each other, and nodded. Pretty good start, I would say.

“We have some forms which you might want to fill-in to indicate where you will like to visit, and we will try to facilitate your travel. But it is fine if you do not want to fill in the forms. They are just to facilitate your logistics,” the Minister added. More nods. I was quite certain I heard a few sighs of relief. These came from the media seated behind me.

Election monitoring in a country like Myanmar – with land area of nearly 670,000 square kilometers – was never going to be easy. Even excluding the Kochin area, which will not participate in this By-Election due to security concerns, covering the rest of the contested areas would be a major logistics challenge. I appreciate the government’s readiness to assist, and I am impressed by its delicate handling of the matter. By offering options instead of a one-size-fits-all solution, they are trying to avoid any misunderstandings.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs was unable to address all questions immediately–but they were pertaining to details which the Election Commission was in charge. The minister agreed to look into the queries.

Over 150 observers and hundreds of media have been invited to observe the by-election to be held on 1st April 2012. Judging by the fully booked hotels and car rentals, many accepted this invitation. And come Sunday, these observers and journalists will fan across as much of the country as they could, to witness first hand, Myanmar’s first step to political reforms and engagement. …to be continued.

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ASEAN Secretariat Team Leader Thank Independent