Myanmar activists call for postponement of referendum

May 6th, 2008 - 5:05 pm ICT by admin  

Bangkok, May 6 (DPA) Myanmar political activists Tuesday called on the international community to pressure the country’s military regime to postpone its planned referendum May 10 in the wake of cyclone Nargis, which has killed an estimated 15,000 people and left at least 3,000 missing. “We are asking the international community to pressure the regime to defer the referendum in order to address the devastation caused by the cyclone,” said Soe Aung, a spokesman for the National League for Democracy (Liberated Area), one of several Thailand-based groups struggling to bring democracy to Myanmar.

The referendum has been criticized as a sham, designed to approve the military-sponsored constitution through intimidation and rigging of the vote.

Myanmar’s military rulers Monday announced plans to go on with a controversial referendum Saturday, that promises to vote in a new constitution cementing their dominant role in the country’s future politics, despite the chaos cyclone Nargis has caused in the country, especially in the Irrawaddy region that was hardest hit by the storm.

Reports from Myanmar officials have indicated that the death toll in the Irrawaddy will exceed 15,000, with hundreds of thousands more left homeless.

“We have heard that in Bogalay township, which is just one town in Irrawaddy, the the death toll could be as high as 10,000 people,” Soe Aung told a press conference in Bangkok. “And that is just one town.”

He said Myanmar’s military government, which has now opened its arms to international emergency aid, should concentrate on coping with the disaster rather than on pushing ahead with the referendum.

United States first lady Laura Bush, while announcing a $250,000 emergency aid grant to Myanmar Monday, accused the junta of not adequately warning the population in advance of the cyclone.

“Although they were aware of the threat, Burma’s state run media failed to issue a timely warning to citizens in the storm’s path,” Bush said, using the country’s historical name.

Soe Aung agreed with the assessment.

“As we all know the military regime was too busy preparing this referendum to push ahead, which is very important for them because it will cement their power forever through the constitution, so they didn’t pay the cyclone much attention,” said Soe Aung.

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