03/05/2008, 00.00
MYANMAR
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Monks launch ‘no’ campaign against constitution

Referendum campaign for constitution starts. In Amarapura posters go up urging people to vote “no” and “bury” their fear. UN envoy Gambari is expected tomorrow.

Yangon (AsiaNews) – Buddhist monks launched a campaign in Mandalay against the military’s draft constitution which should be voted in a referendum scheduled for May, anonymous sources told newspaper The Irrawaddy, known for its close ties to Burmese dissidents.

Teams of volunteers put up anti-regime posters in six different locations in Amarapura Township (11 km from Mandalay), including in several monasteries and Yadanapon University.

Posters called the junta’s leader, General Than Shwe, “Killer Than Shwe,” and urged people against voting for the constitution, telling them to “bury” their fear.

These are very bold initiatives since just last 26 February the government adopted a referendum law that imposes jail sentences on anyone trying to interfere with the vote.

Last month the All Burma Monks Alliance (ABMA), which played a leading role in the September pro-democracy demonstrations, issued a statement condemning the junta’s referendum plan and the scheduled 2010 general election, which in its opinion are only meant to “prolong military rule in the country.”

The referendum is part of the roadmap the ruling junta adopted in the 90s in pursuit of its own version of transition to democracy.

Since 1988 Myanmar has no constitution and not much is known about the proposed constitution since it was drafted without the participation of the pro-democracy opposition.

What little is known though clearly indicates the generals still want to retain control and keep pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi, who is under house arrest, out of political life.

Meanwhile UN Special Envoy for Myanmar Ibrahim Gambari is expected to arrive in the country tomorrow. The Nigerian diplomat is expected to meet junta and opposition leaders in an attempt to solve the crisis. But hopes for success are limited. 

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