New constitution just a "license to kill" for Myanmar regime
The military junta ruling Myanmar ( Burma) has imposed a vacation ban for all officials, but not for the reason that every last person can be available to assist survivors of the recent cyclone that devastated the country, dpa reported.
Instead, the officials have to remain available to organize this Saturday's referendum on the new constitution, with which the generals intend to cement their power.
"This clearly shows their priorities," said Bo Kyi who, as a political prisoner, spent more than seven years in a military-run torture camp before he fled across the border into Thailand.
"They won't allow their ploy to be spoiled even by tens of thousands of dead," he added.
According to the government, nearly 23,000 people were killed and as many as 42,000 are missing since Cyclone Nargis smashed into central Myanmar on May 2 and 3.
While bloated corpses still litter fields across the Irrawaddy river delta, the regime-controlled media continue to busily promote the referendum.
And while a million people in deep shock fight for their survival, government newspapers inform about upcoming election speeches by different ministers under the concept of a "flourishing discipline democracy."
If adopted, the new constitution will secure the military a staggering 25 per cent of parliamentary seats as well as key ministerial positions in the government.
Some opponents already have made acquaintance with the proclaimed "flourishing discipline."
Inhabitants of Yangon ( Rangoon), the country's main port city and former capital, who dared to publicly wear "Vote No!" T-shirts prior to the cyclone were arrested.
Members of the oppositional National League for Democracy (NLD) were beaten in the streets.
"The junta wants to merely legitimize their regime with the constitution. They want a license to kill," asserted Bo Kyi, who founded a non-governmental organization, the Association for the Assistance of Political Prisoners (AAPP), to help incarcerated dissidents and their families.
He is convinced that the country's voters will reject the constitution, especially at a time when the regime has forsaken the people in their hour of greatest need.
On Thursday, hundreds of thousands were still awaiting help while international emergency relief volunteers were stuck in neighbouring countries because they couldn't obtain entry visas.
"We have received nothing so far," said Soe Win, a resident of Kawhmu township some 35 kilometres south of Yangon.
His sister and 7-year-old nephew were killed by a falling tree that was uprooted by the cyclone.
"Everybody here is deeply upset and we all certainly will vote 'no'," he said.
Meanwhile, those familiar with the regime's workings don't harbour any illusions about the referendum result that the ruling generals are likely to announce.
"The junta just cannot be trusted. They will never give up their sabotage (of democracy)," said NLD member Win Hlaing, 45, who in 1990 won a parliamentary seat during the country's last national election, which saw a landslide victory for the NLD.
The junta ignored the outcome and put opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi under house arrest, where she remains till this day.
Win Hlaing himself also spent 10 years in prison before last year fleeing to Mae Sot, a little town on the Thailand side of the border.
Since then, the junta has trained the country to give frightened obedience.
Similar to the Stasi agents of former East Germany, the regime's henchmen have infiltrated everywhere and nothing goes unnoticed by them.
Associations, companies and even individual families are required to regularly delegate participants to official parades which tens of thousands of spectators are expected to cheer.
It is anticipated that regime supporters of the United Solidarity and Development Association (USDA) will be deployed during the referendum to "assist" voters in their decision-making.
ULDA allegedly has 24 million active members, about half of the country's total population.
The regime reared its ugly head most recently in September last year when it ordered troops to open fire on tens of thousands of peaceful protesters and monks in Rangoon.
Official figures put the death toll at 31 people, but human rights activists believe that dozens more lost their lives.
The opposition is convinced that a new public uprising is only around the corner.
"Our next phase of struggle will begin after the referendum," said Win Hlaing. He claimed that the NLD maintains secret observers throughout the country to expose election fraud.
"The people are angry with the military. They only need one little spark to explode again," he added.
If that happens, said Bo Kyi, it would have to be the hour of the international community to get involved.
"The United Nations will have to support the will of Myanmar's people, not the will of the junta," he explained.
He rejected the idea of avoiding a confrontation in order to not jeopardize a dialogue with the paranoid generals.
"You may play the violin to a buffalo, but it won't listen," he said, citing a local proverb.