Junta authorities coax, threaten civilians to support charter
In an attempt to get public approval of the draft constitution, authorities of State and Peace Development Council (SPDC) are pushing for and threatening civilians to vote ‘Yes’ during the constitutional referendum in coming May, according to the sources from Eastern Shan State.
By: Kwarn Lake
Since 9 March, local government officials in Tachilek, eastern Shan State, have gone from one house to another and asked the people of their opinion on the draft constitution, said a resident of Tachilek.
"They [authorities] also threaten the people by saying, "If you boycott or say no to this new constitution leading to its defeat, you will lose all the rights stated in it. Moreover the problems and the difficulties currently faced by the people will not be solved," ” he added.
From early this month, in Pongpakhem, the sub-township of Mong Ton, eastern Shan State, high school teachers and officers from several governmental departments are ordered to urge villagers to vote ‘yes’ during constitutional referendum, said a source from Thai-Burma border.
"Teachers and officers are forbidden from taking their summer holidays and ordered to win over villagers [during referendum in May]. Now they are travelling from one village to another and persuading the villagers to give support [to the draft constitution]".
"I have never voted and never known anything about a referendum and voting system. They [teachers and officers] just told us to go and vote for it, but they told us nothing about how to vote or didn’t explain anything about the constitution," said a 28-year-old resident of Pongpakhem.
A respected politician from southern Shan State has counselled that the constitutional referendum should not be boycotted 'at least for the sake of one’s own safety and well being.'However, according to the referendum law promulgated on 26 February, secret ballot is allowed and votes will be immediately counted after voting in the presence of the voters.
“If so,” he advises, “we should all vote.” As for saying yes or no to the draft constitution, “which 99.9% of the people have never seen,” let alone understand the contents,“The core of the constitution is the continuation of the military rule. Please ask yourself if you want it? If you do, just mark ‘Yes’. If you don’t want it, just mark ‘No’.”