Referendum: 'No' Vote Gaining Momentum
covering burma and southeast asia
Saturday, July 31, 2021

Referendum: 'No' Vote Gaining Momentum

By SAW YAN NAING Thursday, March 20, 2008


A vote “No” movement is gaining momentum throughout Burma as the May referendum date—still yet to be announced—draws near.

Various activists and citizens in Rangoon, Mandalay and Kachin and Arakan states are urging the public to take a stand against the military-crafted draft constitution, which has still not been made public.

Protesters stage a die-in to depict the alleged political situation and the plight of political prisoners in Burma on March 13 in front of the Burmese Embassy in Manila. (Photo:AP)
The military regime announced on February 9 it would hold a national referendum on the draft constitution in May and a multi-party election in 2010. 

Public reaction to the referendum has been colored by the 2007 uprising, in which the UN said at least 31 protesters including monks were killed by security forces.

Nyi Nyi, a businessman in Sittwe in Arakan State, said, “There is no reason to support the junta. I will not vote “Yes” in the referendum because there is no justice.”

A resident in Mandalay, the second largest city, predicted that almost all Mandalay citizens would vote “No” in the referendum.

“It’s not because they don’t understand the constitution,” he said, “but because they dislike the military regime.”

Even government staffers are saying they will vote ‘No,’” he said.

An elderly housewife in Sittwe was coy when asked by The Irrawaddy how she would vote. “I’ve decided to vote, but it is early to tell,” she said. “Let’s see when we vote. You will realize what I mean.”

In Myitkyina, many residents told The Irrawaddy that they would vote “No,” while others said they would boycott the referendum.

Ma Brang said, “I will vote ‘No.’ Many people—almost all—in Myitkyina think like me.”

Another Myitkyina resident said, “I will not vote in the referendum. If authorities try to talk to me, I’m ready to complain to them.”

He said the constitution process was a “fake” and it failed to guarantee the rights of ethnic groups in Burma. The constitution will only guarantee that the junta is able to hold on to power, he said.

A Rangoon resident told The Irrawaddy that most of his friends are prepared to vote “No” while others they will boycott the referendum.

“For me, I will not support the referendum for sure. I’m deciding whether to vote “No” or not to vote.”

Meanwhile, Burmese activists in Rangoon have launched new anti-government campaigns against the national referendum, urging people to boycott the referendum.

Activists have also distributed VCDs filled with jokes aimed at the junta’s referendum by the well-known a-nyeint comedy troupe, Thee Lay Thee & Say Young Sone.

Meanwhile, the Burmese regime has launched its own publicity campaigns in support of a “Yes” vote on the referendum.

In early March, local authorities in Rangoon, including members of Township and Ward Peace and Development Councils, were ordered to lobby residents to vote “Yes” by the chairman of the Rangoon Division Peace and Development Council, Brig-Gen Hla Htay Win, and Home Minister Maung Oo, according to sources in the former capital.

Local authorities in Rangoon and other regions, especially in ethnic states, have also offered temporary citizen identification cards to adults while urging them to vote “Yes,” sources said.

Some residents who have openly spoken out against the referendum have been threatened by authorities, sources told The Irrawaddy

The regime recently enacted a new law that calls for up to three years imprisonment and a 100,000 kyat (US $91) fine for anyone convicted of making anti-government statements or distributing posters opposing the referendum. The law also bans monks and nuns from voting. 

Despite the restrictions, a Burmese migrant worker in Singapore, who asked for anonymity, said, “I will vote in the referendum because if I don’t vote, I will lose my vote. But I will vote “No.”

Meanwhile, the All Burma Monks Alliance released a statement this week calling on all citizens and Buddhist monks to remember the September 2007 crackdown and to boycott the May referendum and the state-run religious examinations to be held this month.

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