Obama: Myanmar elections 'neither free nor fair'
MUMBAI, India – President Barack Obama said Sunday the elections now being held in Myanmar are "anything but free and fair."
Speaking to a group of college students in Mumbai, Obama said "for too long the people of Burma have been denied the right to determine their own destiny."
Obama told a town-hall style gathering at St. Xavier College that "even as we do not impose any system of government on other countries, we must always speak out for those human rights that are universal and the right of people everywhere to make their own decision about how to shape their future."
Myanmar, which is also known as Burma, was on Sunday conducting its first elections in 20 years amid a barrage of criticism that the balloting was rigged in favor of the repressive ruling military.
In a statement released by the White House after the president met with the students, Obama said the balloting failed to meet any of the internationally accepted standards associated with legitimate elections.
"The elections were based on a fundamentally flawed process and demonstrated the regime's continued preference for repression and restriction over inclusion and transparency," Obama said.
Obama pointed to the continued detention of hundreds of political prisoners, including the Nobel Peace Prize laureate and opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, who remains under house arrest in her Yangon villa.
Democracy advocates are hopeful she will be freed sometime after the election, perhaps as early as Nov. 13.
Obama renewed his call for the release of Suu Kyi and the other political prisoners and said the U.S. will monitor the situation in the country closely in the coming weeks and months.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who's in Australia wrapping up a long Asia-Pacific tour, called the elections a reflection of "heartbreaking" repressive conditions in the country.