Myanmar junta claims cyclone-hit areas endorse pro-military charter

May 26th, 2008 - 6:04 pm ICT by admin  

Yangon, May 26 (DPA) Some 92.94 percent of the population in 47 Myanmar townships hard-hit by Cyclone Nargis supposedly voted “yes” over the weekend for a new constitution that promises to consolidate military rule in the country, state media reported Monday. Postponed polling in a national referendum was held Saturday in 47 townships hardest hit by Cyclone Nargis that slammed into Myanmar’s central coast May 2-3, and left at least 133,000 dead or missing and about 2.4 million in need of the food, water, shelter and medicines.

Anecdotal evidence suggests that the people living in the cyclone devastated areas have little reason to support the government, which has been blamed for hampering an international disaster relief effort for the storm victims.

Since the voting and vote-counting were totally controlled by the military, the polling results are deemed suspicious, if not downright fictitious.

The government decision to go ahead with its referendum May 10, in the wake of the destruction wrought by the cyclone, was one of many complaints the international community voiced against the ruling junta’s mismanagement of the disaster relief effort.

The vote was delayed in 47 townships hardest hit by the storm, that has affected up to 2.4 million people, especially those living in the former capital Yangon and the Irrawaddy delta.

According to the government’s count, some 92.4 percent of the populace voted in favour of the charter on May 10.

The lead-up to the referendum was marred by a nationwide “vote yes” propaganda campaign by the government, accompanied by intimidation and arrests of opponents to the charter.

In February the ruling junta passed a law making it illegal to publicly criticize the new constitution, which will essentially grant the military control over the upper and lower houses in an elected government.

Myanmar’s ruling regime has promised to hold an election by 2010.

The charter has barred opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi from holding office as she was married to a foreign national, the late Michael Aris, an Oxford professor.

Myanmar authorities Friday allowed Suu Kyi to cast an “advance vote” at her home, where she has been under house arrest for the past five years.

The Nobel Peace laureate has been under house arrest since May 30, 2003, after authorities charged her with threatening national security after pro-government thugs attacked her and her followers in Depayin, northern Myanmar, killing 70 Suu Kyi supporters.

Suu Kyi is kept incommunicado in her family home and has been unable to comment publicly on the cyclone devastation or the junta’s response to it.

According to Myanmar law, the government cannot keep prisoners charged with undermining national security under detention for more than five years.

Although Suu Kyi’s detention period will reach five years on Tuesday, it is widely anticipated that the ruling junta will find an excuse for extending it further.

The government has come under harsh international criticism for impeding an international disaster relief effort for the victims of Cyclone Nargis, and for going ahead with the self-serving referendum despite the catastrophe.

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