For Immediate Release: 1 March
THE BURMESE REFERENDUM
THAT ISN'T - ASEAN URGED TO REJECT "OUTRAGEOUS FARCE"
A Southeast Asian human rights
group has condemned the Burmese military regime's planned referendum
as an outrageous farce and called on ASEAN to engage in some
straight-talk to push for actual reforms in Burma.
Rules for the conduct of the
constitutional referendum published in the New Light of Myanmar
on 28 February indicate that the regime known as the State Peace
and Development Council (SPDC) will ignore abstentions and "no"
votes. This adds to disgust over provisions that dictate jail
terms for those who speak out against the referendum and bar
the Buddhist clergy from voting.
The rules state that the constitution
will be adopted by announcing the number of votes cast in favor
of the constitution as compared to the total number of eligible
voters. Simply put, abstentions and "no" votes are
meaningless in determining the outcome of the referendum.
Altsean-Burma Coordinator Debbie
Stothard said, "The intentions of the SPDC to force this
constitution on Burma's people should now be abundantly clear
to everyone - including those who wanted to give the SPDC the
benefit of the doubt over this referendum and its so-called
roadmap to democracy"
"The SPDC anticipated
the possibility of a majority of Burma's people rejecting the
proposed constitution and has made a mockery the voting process.
What can we expect for their intended election in 2010? Ballot
papers that only offer the choice of voting for Than Shwe, Than
Shwe, and only Than Shwe?" asked Ms. Stothard, referring
to junta head Senior General Than Shwe.
Ms. Stothard urged ASEAN leaders
to reject the SPDC's referendum and engage in some straight-talking
to pressure the regime to engage in genuine reforms: "The
SPDC is assuming that ASEAN will stick to diplomatic murmurings
and allow it to continue with this unacceptable farce. An outright
rejection by ASEAN will force it to make actual changes. If
ASEAN fails to take a strong line on this, it risks being the
laughingstock of the international community."
ASEAN must push for UN Special
Advisor on Burma Ibrahim Gambari to return to Burma and insist
that the National League for Democracy and ethnic groups be
allowed to negotiate a review and redraft of the proposed constitution
and any subsequent political process.
On 29 February, the Burma Partnership,
an alliance that includes Altsean-Burma, urged ASEAN to reject
the SPDC's proposed constitution.
Enquiries: Debbie Stothard,
cellphone +6681 686 1652 or Anelyn de Luna +6681 403 4830