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By: J Moe
Almost 100,000 Burmese nationals in Singapore are looming to cast “Vote No” at the forthcoming constitutional referendum in which the military is occupying 25% of the seats in parliament.
Kyaw Swe Thint, First Secretary of the Union of Myanmar Embassy to Singapore sent quietly an uncommon letter through the post to Burmese residents in Singapore inviting them to attend the embassy to vote for the upcoming referendum.
The “Vote NO” messaging campaign, Singapore island-wide via SMS text messaging, popular service amongst the Burmese bloggers and news agencies has started to flow around the world.
“Dear All, Kyaw Swe Thint, First Secretary to the Burma embassy in Singapore issued notification about voting for constitution dated 10 April 08, inviting all Burmese in Singapore to attend the embassy for voting any day from April 25 – 29 between 9am to 5pm. Either you received the letter or not, please attend the embassy and vote for “NO”. “Be united for the Freedom of Burma”. “We must win”.
The announcement from the First Secretary clearly confirmed those who identify as Myanmar citizens eligible to cast a vote at the office of Myanmar embassy which is located at 15, Saint Martin’s Drive, Orchard Road, starting from 25 to 29 April from 9:00a.m to 5:00p.m.
Singapore is the first country for overseas Burmese people to cast their vote officially for the constitutional referendum amongst the other countries.
How Can the Constitutional Referendum be Monitored?
Burmese and Ethnics in majority are concerned about the monitoring of the voting event in Burma and Singapore.
It is now clear that many people in Singapore will cast a “No” vote against the military government’s constitutional referendum by the end of April at the Myanmar Embassy.
On April 13, the words “No” appeared at several locations in Singapore, whilst Burmese people celebrated water festival at Toa Payoh Burmese Buddhist Temple and Eunos Mingala Vihara (Buddhist Temple).
A “No” vote is required, said the NLD, because the draft constitution was written by “hand-picked puppets” of the military government and lacks basic principles of democracy and human rights. The NLD was the major winner in the 1990 general elections.
Meanwhile, a small group of people inside and outside Burma have expressed support for the draft. However, there is little likelihood of a real debate between “No” and “Yes” groups at this stage.
If the “Vote No” campaign gained significant momentum, there’s always the possibility that the junta might cancel the referendum, or if the referendum proceeds, that the election results will be rigged by the junta’s so-called poll-watchers, including the Union Solidarity and Development Association.
Because the junta has banned outside poll-watchers, it’s up to the NLD and other groups to try to monitor the referendum as well as they can.
A proposal to allow international observers to monitor the referendum by UN Special Envoy to Burma Ibrahim Gambari in March was rejected outright by the military authorities.
“We are a sovereign country,” they said. “We have done these things before without international help.”
Gambari told news agencies in a recent exclusive interview: “Our position is that their situation has been the subject of international concern, so [there is a need] to enhance the credibility of the process, to meet the exercise of their sovereign right to ask for help. Technical assistance or even independent monitors need not come from the UN—it could be from international monitors or neighboring countries or from friendly countries.”
There is no chance the junta will change its mind and accept the UN’s proposal.
Therefore, the NLD and other activist groups have the impossible task of trying to monitor the election. They risk severe penalties if they are seen to be obstructing the referendum process because of the junta’s new law, enacted in February and signed by junta Snr-Gen Than Shwe, provides for up to three years imprisonment and a fine for anyone who distributes statements or posters or who makes a speech against the referendum.
An NLD member was arrested on Sunday for possessing a NLD party statement calling for a “No” vote, according to party spokesperson Nyan Win.
The junta has created a situation that prohibits any effective monitoring of the referendum. To do so, risks imprisonment. Opposition groups have again been out maneuvered by the wily generals.
The “Vote No” campaign is likely to produce the desired results, but the question is will the referendum’s official outcome reflect the people’s vote, or—more likely—what the generals want?
(Original News source from BBC Burmese, www.irrawaddy.org and from the various bloggers; http://www.ko-htike.blogspot.com, http://myochitmyanmar.blogspot.com/, http://linletkyalsin.blogspot.com/ and http://arzarni.blogspot.com/ )
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