“Impossible” was the word used by a senior member of the National Democratic Alliance Army-Eastern Shan State (NDAA-ESS) in response to the claim made by Burma’s rulers yesterday of the overwhelming public support given to the military-drawn draft constitution on May 10.
“How can that be when, in most cases, only a small number of people had the opportunity to vote?” he asked rhetorically.
According to official figures 99.07% of eligible voters had turned out, out of which 92.4% had voted in favor of the draft.
The NDAA-ESS, based in Mongla, 87km northeast of Kengtung on the Sino-Burma border, had set up 3 polling stations in areas under its sway: at Mongla, Saleu and Nampan. “None of our members went to vote,” he said, “and only people who live near the polling stations turned up. And most of them, to my knowledge, just put crosses (standing for disapproval) in their ballot papers.”
A commander of one of the 4 brigades of Shan State Army (SSA) North, who wishes to remain anonymous, agreed. “The authorities did not set up a polling station for Namlap tract (Tangyan township, Lashio district, northern Shan State),” he wrote to SHAN yesterday. “Instead , the headman of Namlap tract was summoned to put 500 ticks for 500 voters in the ballot papers.”
He quoted a principal of a middle school who was appointed as a polling station official as saying, “We (referendum officials) had been threatened with a jail sentence plus fine, in the event that there are more crosses than ticks.”
He was “dead sure” that the draft charter would have been defeated if the referendum had strictly followed the rules of the civilized world. “There is not a single ceasefire group that has agreed to surrender their arms”, he said. “All the opposition politicians, both inside and outside prisons, and the Buddhist Sangha, both at home and abroad, are also against it. They will continue to be a fishbone in the throat (Shan expression meaning a barrier in the way) against the regime.”
Neither group however has issued any official statement to bolster the two officer’s views.
The draft charter’s Article 338 stipulates that all armed organizations must come under the command of the Tatmadaw (Armed Forces).
There are 13 major ceasefire groups in Burma with a combined strength of 42,000, according to a study made by the Ethnic Nationalities Council (ENC).