Yangon (AsiaNews) - The new Burmese constitution must be passed. The generals in power haven't even taken into consideration the hypothesis of a victory for the "no" in the referendum next May 10. For this reason - as reliable AsiaNews sources in Myanmar report - they are organising election rigging in the cities and countryside, to secure victory at the polls.
The intimidation is taking place at every level: in the villages the inhabitants are being threatened with three years in prison if they do not vote "yes"; the officials at each polling place have been instructed to block the ballots against the new charter; each polling place has 17 volunteer observers who have received orders to convince the voters to mark the "yes". The same pressure is also being applied to state employees: doctors, for example, must "help" recovering patients to mark the "yes". According to information leaked by government officials, the military regime has no strategy for addressing a possible defeat at the polls: "They have already decided to overrule the popular referendum".
In tandem with the underground efforts, the state media are also beginning the official campaign for the "yes". Last April 11, the newspaper Myanma Ahlin wrote: "Democracy and freedom cannot be achieved with protests and agitations . . . but only by supporting the constitution in the upcoming referendum".
The complete text of the charter has been on sale only since last April 9, but it is not known how many copies have been published. It seems that they have still not arrived in the rural areas. The dissident newspaper The Irrawaddy reports that its personnel went to the bookstore that same day to buy it, and were told: "Already sold out". The new constitution, which is opposed by the democrats, students, and Buddhist monks, reserves 25 percent of the seats in parliament for military officials, and permits the army to declare a state of emergency at will. To prevent any future amendment, it is established that modifications to the constitution must be proposed by 75 percent of the legislative body and approved by all of the voters.