The first elections in military-ruled Myanmar in 20 years were "neither free nor fair," President Barack Obama said on Sunday.
"For too long the people of Burma have been denied the right to determine their own destiny," he told students at St. Xaviers' College.
"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," the president said. Myanmar, also known as Burma, held its first election on Sunday since 1990. Back then, pro-democracy candidate Aung San Suu Kyi's party won a landslide victory, but was barred from taking office. She's been locked up in her Yangon villa on and off ever since the ruling generals ignored the 1990 poll results.
In a statement released by the White House after the president met with the students, Obama called the voting "neither free nor fair" and didn't 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 Suu Kyi, a Nobel Peace Prize laureate. 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.
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.