Myanmar nationals in "Say No" shirts barred from voting

Other News Materials 27 April 2008 15:56 (UTC +04:00)

Many Myanmar nationals living in Singapore were prevented from voting on their country's draft constitution Sunday when they refused demands from embassy personnel to remove red "Say No" T-shirts.

An estimated 1,000 citizens lined up in front of the embassy for the third straight day of the five-day period designated for those abroad to cast ballots ahead of voting in the country on May 10, the dpa reported.

"It's a sham referendum," said Myo Mying Maung, spokesman for the Overseas Burmese Patriots. "It's not free or fair."

Several said they were denied entrance to the embassy because they did not have an invitation or were not on a list, but had brought their passports.

Myo, a 23-year-old student, said he brought his passport and was still rejected because he lacked other documents.

Others sported T-shirts reading, "We pursue peace, justice and democracy for Burma."

Those wearing the shirts refused to take them off and were not admitted to the embassy.

"We have a right to wear what we want," said an angry participant.

Police stood outside, but there was no violence. An estimated 500 Myanmar nationals were still waiting when the embassy closed its doors for the day and finally dispersed.

Since the voting started on Friday, hundreds of Myanmar citizens have managed to vote in the city-state. The referendum marks the first time citizens have voted in 18 years.

Estimates of the number of Myanmar nationals in Singapore range from 30,000 to 100,000 people.

Myanmar's ruling junta said the vote is aimed a paving the way for democratic elections in 2010. Critics say it is an attempt by the military to stay in power.

International condemnation of Myanmar's regime has mounted since soldiers were deployed in September to violently end anti-government protests.