By Ariel Lin
Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia
YANGON, Myanmar – In Myanmar’s largest city, security was tightened as rumors spread that pro-democracy activists would launch protests against an upcoming referendum on a draft constitution. Riot police and junta supporters carrying batons were deployed at major road junctions and Buddhist monuments. Dissidents in Myanmar and exile groups have urged voters to vote against the constitution, saying it is merely a ploy to perpetuate more than four decades of military rule.
Hundreds of Myanmar nationals living overseas said “No” to the country’s proposed new constitution. In Singapore, about 500 Myanmar nationals wearing red or t-shirts with the word “No”, gathered outside the Myanmar embassy to protest against the country’s proposed new constitution. They were prevented from voting on their country’s draft constitution when they refused demands from embassy personnel to remove T-shirts. “It’s a sham referendum,” said Myo Mying Maung, spokesman for the Overseas Burmese Patriots. He urged everyone to vote ‘no’ “because the draft constitution is for a sham democracy”. A student said. “It’s not for a true and real democracy as all the terms in the constitution are biased toward the military regime.”
In Tokyo, at least 150 Myanmar citizens were protesting at the Burmese embassy, demanding that all Burmese expatriates be allowed to vote in the referendum. Several demonstrators were injured and one man arrested during scuffles with Japanese police. In Thailand, the demonstrators, organized by the Joint Action Committee for Democracy in Burma, chanted slogans against the May 10 referendum. Protest organizers called the vote a ploy to help Burma’s ruling generals keep their grip on power.
Meanwhile, the European Parliament is scheduled to hold a debate on Burma this week in Strasbourg and will vote on a new resolution which would exert more pressure on the Burmese military junta, according to the parliament’s official website. These measures included a ban on the import of gemstones, timber and precious metal.
For more information, please see:
AP – Security tightened in Myanmar amid possible demonstration – 27 April 2008
AFP – Myanmar nationals in Singapore signal ‘no’ as they wait to vote – 27 April 2008
Bangkok Post – Burma bars anti-constitution group from voting – 27 April 2008
Bloomberg – Myanmar Nationals in Singapore, Indonesia Vote on Constitution – 27 April 2008
Reuters – Myanmar nationals protest constitution in Singapore – 27 April 2008