05/15/2008, 00.00
MYANMAR
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The military "wins" the sham referendum on the constitution

The state media announce today a 92.4 percent vote for the "yes" on the new charter pushed through by the generals with every sort of violence and intimidation against the electorate. In the areas struck by the cyclone, voting will be conducted on May 24, while in the refugee camps the devastation continues among the survivors. The UN announces the departure of an envoy to Myanmar.

Yangon (AsiaNews) – The draft of the new Burmese constitution obtained more than 90 percent of the votes in the referendum last May 10. This announcement comes today from the state media, according to which about 92.4 percent of the voters opted for the "yes". Characterised by intimidation, manipulation, and blackmailing of citizens to approve a text that they have not even seen, the sham referendum was held in only two thirds of the country. In 47 municipalities in the districts of the Irrawaddy delta and Yangon, devastated by the cyclone Nargis, voting will be held next May 24. The vote was postponed because of the disaster that struck the country last May 3, killing more than 100,000. The new constitution consolidates the power of the military leaders, and gives de facto legitimacy to the status quo: a dictatorial regime among the most indifferent in the world.

But the democratic opposition is asking for a further delay of voting in the areas affected by the cyclone, because of the severe emergency there. "The people continue to die of hunger here, and disease is rampant", reads a statement from the National League for Democracy. A doctor in the town of Laputta, rased to the ground by the cyclone, says that seven survivors die every day in the refugee camps where he is working.

The military officials continue to block the sending and distribution of aid from outside of the country. And apart from condemnations - a Burmese activist charges - the international communuity seems powerless before what could properly defined as "intentional genocide". Little hope for resolving the crisis can be gathered from the statements of UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon, who intends "in the next few days " to send the UN envoy for humanitarian affairs, John Holmes, to the former Burma in order to coordinate aid efforts. The decision came at the end of the emergency meeting held yesterday at the UN by Ban, attended by ambassadors from countries including China, France, Great Britain, Russia, and the United States, in addition to the members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).

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