The art of boxing with a bound opponent
It seemingly started as a clean campaign with clear cut guidelines for polling booth officials to make it a free and fair vote taking, but by all accounts no holds were barred for the junta authorities in their relentless quest to win yesterday’s nationwide constitutional referendum.
In Kali, Kunhing township, Shan State South, where few voters turned up, one
polling officials was quoted as saying, “The less they come, the more we can
put ticks (symbol showing support for the draft charter)”.
At Nakawngmu, Mongton township, Shan State East, the polling booth was closed before 10:00 after less than 100 voters out of more than 3,000 eligible voters turned up. A young military officer was overheard telling a voter who came after the closure: “It doesn’t matter at all whether we are voting or not. What matters is that whether the draft is defeated or approved, the generals will continue to boss us around.”
In Namkham township, Shan State North, U Myo Thu, the township referendum commissioner, was found ticking blank ballots papers.
A migrant worker in Chiangmai, who could not return for fear of being fired by her employer, explains: “When I called my father in Kengtung and make inquiries, he told me not to worry because he had already fixed with the (referendum convening) commission and my ballot would be taken care of. And I knew that it would turn out to be a Yes ballot. But I can’t help it, can I ?”
A vote No campaigner on the Sino-Burma border told SHAN that by the end of the day, the majority voters, both urban and rural, had given “a sound beating” to the draft in Namkham. “However, in Muse (19 miles away), most voters were thoroughly intimidated by the presence of the junta officials they just ticked Yes to the draft,” a young anti-junta activist told SHAN. “It is a real let-down for me. It seems we haven’t done enough.”
One major problem in the rural Shan State is language: few Shans can understand Burmese, the official lingo. “People were not explained what they were voting for,” said a militia member in Tachilek, opposite Maesai. “They were given ballot papers and shown how and where they should put ticks,” he said. “Of course, the people just did what they were told – as usual. In some cases, the ballot papers had already been ticked off. All the voters had to do was to cast them in the ballot box.”
According to the survey conducted by SHAN in April, most urban voters were for voting No.
- They are big communities difficult to control by the authorities
- They know the Burmese language
- They are also better educated and better informed
- Moreover, they are used to opposing the regime throughout their lives, one way or the other
The rural areas, meanwhile, are unpredictable, as they are small communities easier to control; they know little or no Burmese; less educated and least informed. They are also used to following orders given by the authorities.
Thai Channel 9 called Burma’s referendum yesterday Mud Mue Chok (Tie up the opponent’s hands and hit him).