Junta releases handbook for referendum officials

Apr 9, 2008 (DVB), The Burmese referendum commission has released a handbook for ballot station officers which gives guidelines and practical details on how voting will be conducted in the May referendum.

Under the guidelines, seven officials will be assigned to polling stations designed for 1000 voters, with more officials sent to supervise larger stations.

The officials will include a station supervisor, vote examiners, security officers and vote handlers.

The handbook states that each polling booth should contain a pen attached with a chain to prevent it being stolen, and instructs ballot stations to keep spare blank votes for an additional 10 percent of the number of expected voters in case they are needed.

U Aung Htoo of the Burma Lawyers Council said the guidelines were inadequate and would not ensure a fair vote.

"The weak point of the handbook is that it doesn't say how many people are allowed to vote in the referendum," he said.

"The book also points out that votes should be counted in the ballot stations but the results should not be made public. This makes it obvious the government is plotting to rig the results of the voting."

Copies of the handbook have not yet been made available to the public.

Reporting by Khin Maung Soe Min

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