Burma's Referendum 'Approved' By A 'Majority' Vote
Burma’s military junta has brushed off and dismissed all criticism towards the voting of the referendum to its new constitution. Under the new constitution, the junta will forever have an active role in the politics of Burma. The junta has said that they had won a majority vote on the constitution. However, many critics have called it a ploy as a means for the junta to solidify its grip on the country.
In regards to the ballot, a “No” choice was not listed. There was only a “Yes” choice on the ballot to vote for the referendum. One could simply opt out of voting. However, that was not the case. There was no choice in the matter. It’s either “vote yes” or face severe consequences.
Burma has been criticized for resorting to the use of fear and intimidation. Soldiers and civil servants were ordered to vote. Military officers and public officials would be dismissed from their posts if there was not a majority vote in areas under their control. Students were threatened by getting expelled from school. Farmers were threatened that they would get their land taken away if they did not vote.
Under this charter, any Burmese that marries a foreigner will be forever barred from running for public office. Many critics perceived it as a ploy to keep Aung San Suu Kyi out of power. Back in 1990, Suu Kyi and her National League for Democracy Party won the elections. But, the junta refused the results and placed Suu Kyi under house arrest for 12 years. Suu Kyi is a Nobel Peace laureate and a recipient of the US Congressional medal.
Foreign monitors were barred from observing.
Before the referendum was set to take place on May 10, Burma was hit by Cyclone Nargis. It is said that at least 100,000 have been killed. Millions more are at risk of dying by waterborne diseases.
While this disaster was supposed to overshadow the referendum, Burma’s junta moved on to a vote anyway. They have also seized the international aid received. Millions of people are still waiting for the necessary food aid. Also, while millions of Burmese need food, Burma’s junta continues to export rice. The people that suffered were given rotten food instead.
In regards to the referendum, state radio said that voter turnout was at 99 percent. Many critics such as various human rights groups dismissed the vote. They have called the vote just a means to stay in power.
“People are dying and they are talking about the referendum?” asks Kyaw Muang, who owns a food store. He adds: “[The generals] don’t even care about dying people, you think they care about democracy for living people? I don’t care about the referendum. It doesn’t mean anything.”
Many international aid workers are trying to get into the country. However, most were not able to obtain the visas.
In short, Burma is in chaos. Millions more are at risk of dying after the damages created by Cyclone Nargis. Since Burma is an ally of China, this could be one issue that looms over a list of things that can spell disaster for the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing.
Tags: Burma , Myanmar , Cyclone Nargis , China , Olympics , Beijing
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