YANGON — Aung San Suu Kyi’s opposition party Saturday rejected the Myanmar junta’s claim of an overwhelming win in a referendum to approve a new constitution, accusing the regime of forcing people to vote during the cyclone tragedy.
Myanmar held the referendum across most of the country on May 10, even though huge swathes of land were still underwater from a cyclone that has left 133,000 people dead or missing.
The junta, which says the new constitution will pave the way to democratic elections in two years, announced Thursday that 92.4 percent of voters had approved the charter, with a 99 percent turnout.
“This result is completely incorrect,” said Nyan Win, spokesman for the opposition National League for Democracy (NLD).
“They forced the people to vote ‘Yes’ — and did not allow ballots to be cast in secret,” he told AFP.
Nyan Win also said that the government should not have announced the results until the second round of voting May 24, when the regime plans to hold the balloting in the areas hit hardest by the storm.
“This referendum result is not in accordance with the law. They should only announce the results after everyone finishes voting,” he said.
The NLD has denounced the regime for holding the referendum while 2.5 million people still need food, shelter and medicine.
Evacuees in emergency shelters have told AFP that soldiers combed through the camps to make lists of all survivors aged 18 and older, so that they could re-compile voter rolls in regions where entire villages have been swept away.
Some voters also said that officials watched them mark their ballot papers. In some cases, they said local authorities marked their ballots for them.
Human Rights Watch said Friday that the military had refused independent monitors for the referendum, citing unconfirmed reports suggesting the vote was carried out in “an atmosphere of official coercion and vote tampering.”
“Governments that are truly concerned about Burma’s people should push harder for real democracy and political openness,” said Brad Adams, the group’s Asia director, using the country’s former name.
The NLD says the constitution will enshrine the power of the generals, who have ruled the country for nearly half a century.
Among its provisions, the constitution would make it illegal for Aung San Suu Kyi to ever hold office, while reserving one-quarter of seats in parliament for the military.
The last time there was a national ballot, in 1990, Aung San Suu Kyi won in a landslide. She was never allowed to rule, and instead has been under house arrest for much of the time since.