India urged not to back Myanmar referendum

May 2nd, 2008 - 3:07 pm ICT by admin  

New York, May 2 (IANS) India and China have been urged by Human Rights Watch not to give credence to Myanmar’s May 10 referendum that the rights body said seeks to entrench military rule. Conditions for a free and fair referendum do not exist in Myanmar because of widespread repression, including arrests of opposition activists, media censorship, bans on political meetings and gatherings, and a pervasive climate of fear created by the ruling State Peace and Development Council (SPDC) in the run up to the referendum, Human Rights Watch said in a report.

“The Burmese generals are showing their true colours by continuing to arrest anyone opposed to their sham referendum, and denying the population the right to a public discussion of the merits of the draft constitution,” said Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “International acceptance of this process will be a big step backward.”

The 61-page report, “Vote to Nowhere: The May 2008 Constitutional Referendum in Burma,” shows that the referendum is being carried out in an environment of restrictions on access to information, repressive media restrictions, an almost total ban on freedom of expression, and continuing widespread detention of political activists.

It highlights recent government arrests, harassment and attacks on activists opposed to the draft constitution. The draft 194-page document only available in Burmese and English was released just a month before the referendum.

The referendum is taking place just months after the military junta violently crushed massive nationwide pro-democracy protests in September 2007.

Human Rights Watch called on the international community not to give any credibility to the referendum process and to firmly insist on real reform from the military rulers.

“This referendum and the draft constitution it seeks to impose on the Burmese people are designed to forever entrench more of the same abusive rule that Burma has endured for nearly half a century already,” said Adams.

“The Burmese junta’s friends, including China, India, and Thailand, should not give any credibility to this process. If they do, it will simply expose them to ridicule for having said they were committed to democratic change in Burma.”

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