Wednesday, March 4, 2009

26-4-2008 The Burmese Military Constitution and the Referendum

Discussion on "The Burmese Military Constitution and the Referendum"
Indian Internal Centre (IIC)
26th April 2008

There left only exactly 2 weeks the people of Burma would have to make a historic decision. The military junta of Burma took 14 years 11 months and 12 days to draft the new constitution. Only 30 days ahead of the D Day, the draft was made available. It is autocratic and against the desire of the peoples of Burma. The referendum of May 10th is life and death matter of the democracy struggle.

It is unfortunate that during the high profile visit of Vice Senior General Maung Aye to India in early April, there was no mention of constitution or referendum by both sides. Foreign countries may not be obliged to comment on the constitution of Burma. However the people of Burma will be happy if the Indian constitution experts and the political analysts come up with commentaries. The Burmese pro-democracy movement in India is grateful to the IIC and the panelists of this afternoon.

We can not support the constitution because:
o It is designed to create the military as the first class elite strata and USDA as the second elite class while the people of Burma will remain a third class citizens to serve for the pleasure of the military
o It is for perpetual Military Despotism
o It denies all democratic, and human rights, all rights of ethnic nationalities
o We urge the entire people of Burma to stand up and reject this unacceptable constitution decisively by voting “No” in the referendum
o We need strong and effective international support to reject the constitution and the referendum process

Referendum in Burma to be held on 10-5-08 is a deception:
o The Referendum Law is full of tricks and flaws letting the regime to do as it wishes.
o The law is called “The Referendum Law for the Approval of the Draft Constitution of the Republic of the Union of Myanmar, 2008.” It means just to approve but not to reject or to seek the choice of the people.
o The Law carries a three-year prison term and with or without a fine of 100,000 Kyat ($90) for anyone who is charged against referendum. (take as campaign for No vote)
o Decree 5/96 of 7-6-1996 can punish criticism of the regime’s roadmap with minimum 5 years and maximum up to 20 years in prison, the organization can be disqualified and properties can be seized.
o The Law does not set the timing when to release the vote results (Notice the election in Zimbabwe.)
o The interpretation of the Law for postponement and cancellation of voting is in the hands of the junta.
o The USDA is assigned to overwhelm the referendum process as the commission and poll officials are from USDA which enjoys all extra-judicial privileges.
o Before it was officially published, there have been (1) draft constitution and (2) basic principles on pro-SPDC website with ostensible typographic error in amendment chapter in the draft. The copies sent to political parties are the typographic error ones. Correction was added only when NLD pointed out that.
o The draft constitution was made public only one month ahead of the referendum so that the people have less time to study and the political parties will not have enough time to educate the voters.
o Only Burmese version of draft constitution was published while most of the ethnic peoples do not read or speak Burmese. All major ethnic political parties have been deregistered.
o Government-run TV, radio, newspapers, blog-sites carry Yes vote propaganda while NLD is being intimidated, members arrested, beaten by unknown peoples, and printed materials are seized.
o Artists, film stars, singers and celebrities are exploited for Yes vote campaign
o Government employees are instructed to vote for Yes and they are threatened they would be fired if voted for No.
o Highest ranking SPDC authorities, ministers, commanders, USDA officials pay visits around the country and urge the people to vote for Yes.
o The unknown huge amount of State fund is misused to lure the people with economic incentives, mobile phone, loans and etc.
o The village heads are ordered by military officials for yes vote campaign.
o Neither domestic nor international observers will be allowed to monitor the referendum and UN’s offer for technical assistance was turned down.
o Chief Justice U Aung Toe is the man of all colors because he was Chairman of the National Convention Convening Work Committee as well as the Chairman of the State Constitution Drafting Commission is also Chairman of the National Referendum Commission.
o Extensive flexibilities for referendum commission to rig the referendum process.
o There remarkable differences between referendum law of 1973 and that of 2008:
o In 1973 Referendum Law, the voters’ list was announced 10 days ahead. But in 2008 it will be announced only 7 days ahead.
o In 1973 referendum, all 18 years old citizens are eligible to vote. But 2008 Law 11 (a) says every citizen, associate citizen, naturalized citizen and temporary certificate holder who has completed the age of eighteen years on the day of referendum shall have the right to vote at the referendum.
o SPDC has issued temporary certificates to ceasefire groups and unknown persons e.g. half-Indians who are happy with that and they will give yes votes. No one knows how many temporary certificates have been issued. Nobody knows one person holds more than one certificate.
o In 1973, the ballot papers placed outside the ballot boxes were regarded as cancelled votes. In 2008 Law, the ballot papers put outside the ballot boxes will not be regarded as cancelled votes.
o In 2008 Law, the ballot papers with additional marks will not be counted as cancelled voters.
o In 1990 election, the voters have to press a seal beside the candidate’s name or party logo. In this referendum it has to tick  for Yes vote and  for No vote. In Burmese culture  means negative or pessimistic.
o It is one polling station for 1000 to 3000 voters and the soldiers whose polling stations are at the respective army quarters are afraid to cast No vote.
o The referendum will be successful if 50% + 1 voters cast the voting.
o The result of referendum will be decided by simple majority i.e. (50% + 1) votes.
o Conundrum (1)
o Votes-in-favor = 26
o Votes-against = 25
o Absentees = 49
o Total turn-out = 51
o Referendum is successful but all the 49 absentees are believed to be against the constitution and referendum and only 26% Votes-in-favor can win.
o Conundrum (2)
o Votes-in-favor = 26
o Votes-against = 26
o Absentees = 48
o Total turn-out = 52
o In this deadlock, by canceling one No vote and Votes-in-favor can win.
o Conundrum (3)
o Votes-in-favor = 20
o Votes-against = 31
o In this scenario, 12 Votes-against can be deliberately cancelled i.e. (31 – 12) = 19 Votes-against so that only 20% Votes-in-favor can win.
o Conundrum (4)
o Votes-in-favor = 20
o Votes-against = 60
o The referendum sub-commission can dissolve voting and the result will not be counted at all.
o Vote-banks for the military regime:
o The illiterate people and naive voters, the rural dwellers and the non-Burmese language speakers and government employees
o Temporary identity card holders who are not legal citizens:
 Half-Indians and half-Chinese
 Migrants from China and Bangladesh and unidentified peoples
o Families of Army (Tatmaday) and Police Force
o Members of USDA, Fire-brigade, Red cross and Swan-Ahr-Shin
o Over 60 the so-called Non-Governmental Organizations
o Over 1000 National convention delegates
o 28 Ceasefire ethnic armed groups
o 14 Members of Parliament who were delegates of the national convention
o 7 Pro-SPDC political parties including NUP, the runner-up in 1990 election

Additional flaws:
o It is near impossible to amend the constitution once approved. But this draft constitution will be approved by simple majority votes out of 50% plus one of eligible turn-out voters. That means merely a quarter of voters can approve it.
o There is no clause on the referendum law to punish the referendum commission and ballot officers.
o Not less than 10 voters are allowed to monitor vote counting at polling stations but no one is allowed while compiling the results of aggregate votes to be sent to higher poll officials. There is no observer or monitoring people beyond poll booths and at embassies outside Burma. So compilation of the results and announcement are in the hands of pro-military officials.
o Government employees and factory workers are instructed to come to the work places to cast the vote in front of the senior officers who are campaigning for yes vote.
o It is not sure those employees will also have to vote at the areas where they reside.
o Some government employees are told that their votes have been already cast by authorities.
o Majority of the people do not know what they are going to do for. Some think it is an election to vote for military or Aung San Suu Kyi. They may go for Yes votes.

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