– VOA News
The United States and Australia are expressing “regret” that historic elections in Burma were neither free nor fair.
In a joint statement following high-level talks in Melbourne, the two countries also called for the immediate release of Aung San Suu Kyi and other political prisoners in Burma and urged the government to make sure the newly elected legislatures are transparent and accountable.
Two Burmese military-backed parties are expected to declare victory in Sunday’s election, Burma’s first in 20 years. Opposition parties alleged widespread fraud and said authorities pressured voters into casting ballots for the regime-backed parties.
Violence was reported Monday from an area along the border with Thailand where ethnic Karen militiamen have frequently clashed with Burma’s military. Thai authorities closed shops and schools near the border after a rocket-propelled grenade exploded in a shop on the Thai side, injuring three people.
Hundreds of people were seen crossing into Thailand to escape the violence, and sources in Burma told VOA that gunfire was continuing at midday Monday.
Officials have not said when the results of the voting for a two-chamber parliament and 14 regional assemblies will be announced. But analysts say there is little doubt the Union Solidarity and Development Party will emerge with the most parliamentary seats.
The election rules set earlier this year reserved one-quarter of parliamentary seats for the Burmese military and created obstacles for opposition and ethnic parties.
Opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi was locked up during the election, and most foreign journalists and international observers were barred from monitoring the vote.
U.S. President Barack Obama and British Foreign Secretary William Hague denounced the election as neither free nor fair in separate statements Sunday.
The White House said the election in Burma failed to meet any of the internationally accepted standards for legitimate elections. It cited the regime’s continued detention of 2,100 political prisoners as one of the “starkest flaws” of the election process.
Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy boycotted the vote because of what it said were unfair rules. It won the country’s last elections in 1990 but the military refused to let it take office. Burma’s military dissolved the party earlier this year.
Reports from the commercial capital, Rangoon, said voter turnout Sunday appeared low and streets were quiet as riot police patrolled key intersections.
Burmese state media announced some results hours after the polls closed Sunday, declaring victories for several military-allied candidates who ran unopposed.