Yangon (AsiaNews/Agencies) – Burmese authorities arrested 23 democracy activists yesterday as they marched peacefully wearing t-shirts bearing the slogan “no” which have become increasingly popular, in a sign of protest against the constitutional referendum due to be held on May 10th. The march took place in Sittwe, in the country’s west. News of the arrests was reported by Nyan Win, spokesman for Anug San Suu Kyi, leader of the National League for Democracy (NLD). Ahead of the popular vote the regime has issued a series of restricting laws which ban speech against the new Constitution.
Nyan Win underlined that the party is unable to clarify the number of NLD members – who have recently joined this form of protest – were participating in the march. “We know that a few have already been released, but we cannot confirm the release of all those arrested”, the spokesperson added.
Monks from Sittwe, in Rakhine state, were among the most active promoters of the peaceful protests of September last against the junta, protests which were bloodily quashed. The official death toll of the dead, according to UN estimates, is 31. But Human Rights groups report hundreds disappeared. The referendum on the new Constitution will be the first poll to be held in former Burma since the 1990 vote, when the regime refused to recognise the landslide victory of the NLD. Since then Aung San Suu Kyi has spent 12 years under house arrest. The generals have promised that the referendum will lead to multi party elections within 2010, but activists warn that the new Charter will only serve to strengthen the army’s control over the civilian population.