Myanmar invites U.S. and EU to observe April elections
March 22, 2012 -- Updated 1004 GMT (1804 HKT)
Aung San Suu Kyi has become the very embodiment of Myanmar's long struggle for democracy.
- April by-elections in Myanmar are seen as a test of recent reforms
- The government has invited the U.S. and EU to send observers, official says
- Other countries in the region have also been invited to send monitors
- Pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi and her party are participating in the elections
(CNN) -- Myanmar has invited the United States and the European Union to send representatives to observe elections in April, according to officials in the region.
Surin Pitsuwan, the secretary-general of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, said in a post Wednesday on his official Twitter account that Myanmar's deputy minister for foreign affairs had told him that all members of the association's regional forum were invited to observe the elections.
The regional forum is much broader than the association's core membership and includes the United States and the European Union, as well as big Asian democracies such as India and Japan.
An official from Myanmar's Information Ministry, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he wasn't authorized to speak publicly on the matter, confirmed that the country had offered to let the U.S. and the EU election monitors observe the by-elections due to be held on April 1.
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International attention is focused on the April elections, which are seen as a test of the Myanmar's government's commitment to lasting political reform.
The international community has applauded recent steps toward greater openness in Myanmar, also known as Burma, long secluded from the rest of the world after a military junta grabbed power in 1962. The generals are loosening their grip after international sanctions and criticism over their regime's human rights record.
The opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi and her party, the National League for Democracy, will participate in the by-elections after boycotting previous votes. Suu Kyi, who was released from years under house arrest in 2010, has been crisscrossing the country to attend election rallies.
Earlier this month, state television broadcast an election campaign speech by Suu Kyi, a Nobel Peace Prize laureate, for the first time.
On Tuesday, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations said that Myanmar had invited member states of the organization to each send two legislators and three media representatives to observe the elections.
The 10-member association comprises of Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam. Its goal is to promote economic growth and regional stability.
CNN's Jethro Mullen and Kathy Quiano contributed to this report.
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