Monday, 28 April 2008

Minister’s insult to Daw Suu provokes anger

Reporting by Aye Nai

Apr 25, 2008 (DVB)—Locals in Yaynanchaung, Magwe division, were furious after the minister of electric power (1), colonel Zaw Min, made a derogatory remark about Daw Aung San Suu Kyi during a “Vote Yes” campaign in the area.

One Yaynanchaung resident said Zaw Min had indirectly insulted the National League for Democracy leader Daw Aung San Suu Kyi during his campaign speech.

"He said that if one lets one’s daughter marry a dog, then she will only be a dog's wife, or if she marries a beggar, she will be a beggar's wife,” the resident said.

“He went on to say that if a woman marries a Kalar [vulgar term for Indian and also for westerners] then she'll be a Kalar's wife. He said people would be wise not to make the wrong decision [by choosing the Kalar's wife]."
(JEG's: better a kalar's than a dog's wife)

Daw Aung San Suu Kyi could be excluded from running for office by the junta’s constitution due to her marriage to a foreign national.

The Yaynanchaung resident said news about Zaw Min’s remark about Daw Aung San Suu Kyi had spread quickly across the region and people were angered by what he had said.

"Everyone understands what Zaw Min meant but they wouldn't speak out against him,” he said.

“Now a lot of people are going to vote ‘No’ at the referendum because they hate his foul mouth."

Myanmar constitution protest in Singapore

SINGAPORE: Hundreds of Myanmar nationals, many wearing red or t-shirts with the word “No”, gathered outside the Myanmar embassy in Singapore on Sunday to protest against the country’s proposed new constitution.

Public protest is rare in Singapore, where all outdoor demonstrations are banned and a public gathering of more than four people requires a permit. According to Myanmar nationals outside the embassy, citizens living in Singapore can this week vote on whether to accept or reject a constitution written by the country’s military leaders. But they said most of them were turned away because they lacked documentation such as a form certifying that they had paid their taxes.

“We are here to cast our votes. We will wait until we can vote,” said one of the waiting crowd, who said he was a student called James. A female companion with him, who declined to be named, said the organisers provided the red t-shirts as well as drinks and snacks to people waiting outside the embassy.

The group, which at one point raised their Myanmar passports in the air to demonstrate their nationality, was well-organised, and largely peaceful, following instructions from the Singapore police to make way for passing traffic and clearing rubbish from the ground. Some monks were seen walking through the crowd. An official from the Myanmar embassy declined comment when contacted, while Singapore police on the ground declined to speak to Reuters.

“We have the impression they don’t want us to vote,” said an organiser of the event. “People are very sure the junta will cheat. We can only wear these caps and t-shirts to show that the people are overwhelmingly against this unfair referendum,” he said.

Security: Myanmar on Sunday tightened security in its largest city as rumours spread that pro-democracy activists would launch protests against the upcoming referendum. Riot police and junta supporters carrying batons were deployed at major road junctions and Buddhist monuments including Yangon’s famous Shwedagon Pagoda, the site of many earlier demonstrations in the staunchly Buddhist country.

At least 230 Myanmar citizens held their own mock “referendum” outside the Myanmar Embassy in Tokyo, where official polls were also held for expatriates with the required official documents such as exit permits. The requirement effectively excludes most exiles and dissidents from the vote. Daily Times

Irregularities in absentee voting in Singapore, Malaysia

Burmese activists in Singpore held demonstration near the Burmese embassy urging voters to reject the draft constitution by casting 'No'.

Mungpi & Myint Maung
Mizzima News
April 27, 2008

New Delhi – Absentee voting in the referendum conducted by the Burmese embassy in Singapore has turned out to be a farce and is being held only in name. It does not include all eligible voters, Burmese citizens in Singapore said.

New Delhi – Absentee voting in the referendum conducted by the Burmese embassy in Singapore has turned out to be a farce and is being held only in name. It does not include all eligible voters, Burmese citizens in Singapore said.

A Burmese worker in Singapore, who saw the voters list prepared by the embassy said there were only about 10,000 registered names, where as Singapore hosts at least 40,000 legal Burmese students and workers.

"As far as we are aware there are at least 40,000 or more Burmese citizens with valid passports and legal documents, who are eligible for voting but the list had only about 10,000 names," the Burmese worker, who on Sunday cast his vote, said.

Besides, he said that the procedure for the voting took several hours and many people after arriving for voting at the embassy could not wait and left without casting their votes.

"It took us about three hours of waiting in front of the embassy before we were able to vote. Many people left without voting because people here are busy with their own work," the worker said.

He added that several of his friends, at least 60, who waited patiently cast a 'No' vote. However, he expressed fears that their votes might be rigged and changed to 'Yes' votes as the results will not be announced at the embassy.

"All our friends cast the 'No' and I believe most people will cast 'No' ballots. But what we fear is since the results are not going to be announced here but will be announced along with others in Burma, there could be a possibility that our votes might be changed to 'yes' votes," the worker said.

He also said that with only about 500 people able to cast their votes a day, the number of days earmarked for voting will not accommodate even those in the list.

"As far as I have observed, a maximum of 500 people can vote per day, and according to their announcement the voting will continue for five days, which would at the most provide a chance to only 2500 to 3000 people to vote," he added.

The Burmese embassy in Singapore, however, was not reachable for comment as no official picked up the telephone when contacted by Mizzima.

Meanwhile, in Malaysia several Burmese citizens, who approached the embassy for voting on Sunday, were sent away by the Malaysian police for wearing red T-shirts that had the word 'No' printed on it.

A Burmese worker in Kuala Lumpur, who has a valid permit and was among those who were shooed away, told Mizzima that the Burmese embassy in Kuala Lumpur informed the Malaysian police to remove them as they were wearing the T-shirts.

He said they had put on the T-shirt to campaign among the people to reject the junta's draft constitution by voting 'No'.

Meanwhile, a Burmese worker who had come to Kuala Lumpur from his worksite in Penang province said, he along with 40 of his friends, who had come from Penang, had cast a 'No' vote.

He added that several people who had come from the Penang province of Malaysia had cast 'No' votes and he put the number at nearly 100.

A Burmese student studying in Kuala Lumpur, who had just come out of the booth told Mizzima that she had cast a 'No' vote.

"I cast a 'No' vote because the draft constitution is not written for the benefit of the people but only to strengthen military rule in our country," she added.

However, despite she and her friends having cast 'No' votes, she expressed concern saying that the junta might change their votes into supporting votes as the results are not meant to be announced at the station.

According to sources in Burma, the junta has instructed polling station officers that all the ballots would have to be sent to higher authorities and ultimately to Naypyitaw, the country's capital, where the accumulated ballots for the polling across the country would be counted and the results declared.

The booth and the ballot paper

A Burmese woman, who just came out of the embassy's polling station after casting her vote on Sunday, told Mizzima that the actual booth inside the embassy premises has a separate room, where voters can secretly tick their votes before casting it into the box.

"I was handed a ballot paper as I went in and was allowed to go to the separate room, where I voted. And then I cast it into the box," she said.

On the ballot paper, she said there was the seal of the ballot station and a statement which said 'I support/do not support the draft constitution' with a box below, where voters are required to tick ( ) for supporting and cross ( X ) for not supporting it.

'No' vote not on as junta prepares for referendum

April 28, 2008 - CHIANG MAI, Thailand: Burma's military junta is taking harsh steps to ensure a new constitution keeping it in control of the country will be approved in next month's referendum.

Civil servants and soldiers have been ordered to vote for the charter, threatened students with expulsion if they vote against it, arrested opposition activists and banned foreign monitors.

The regime said in February that a referendum would be held on May 10 to avert criticism of its suppression of September's pro-democracy protests, in which Buddhist monks led thousands of Burmese in Rangoon.

The new constitution - first promised 14 years ago - proposes multi-party elections, but activists say it will provide no more than a veneer of democracy.

It allows the army to retain a role in the government indefinitely and bars from politics any citizen who has been married to a foreigner, a provision aimed at the Nobel peace laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, who married a Cambridge lecturer, Michael Aris, in 1972. He died in 1999.

Suu Kyi's political party, the National League for Democracy, won Burma's last election in 1990. The junta rejected the result and placed Suu Kyi under house arrest for 12 years.

Her party says its leaders have been intimidated, their houses raided and that farmers were threatened with nationalisation of their land if they failed to vote yes.

Sixty people were arrested earlier this month for wearing T-shirts urging a no vote. Military officers and high-ranking officials have reportedly been warned they will be dismissed if areas under their control do not cast a majority affirmative vote.

Government officials said the regime planned to make teachers and civil servants vote in the presence of senior military officers.

"This is clear intimidation," said Win Min, an exiled Burmese political analyst. "It violates the basic right to vote in secret."

The Union Solidarity and Development Association, a right-wing organisation loyal to the military, will administer the referendum and count the votes.

Pleas from the UN special envoy, Ibrahim Gambari, to allow international observers to monitor the poll have been rejected.

Telegraph, London - SMH