NLD accuses junta of manipulating vote

May 12, 2008 (DVB)-The National League for Democracy has condemned the Burmese military regime for "manipulating" the constitutional referendum, fraudulently securing "Yes" votes and barring independent observers.

NLD spokesperson U Nyan Win said voters had been forced into voting in favour of the constitution and said NLD members had been prevented from observing the referendum.

Rangoon division NLD organising committee chairperson U Soe Myint and joint secretary Dr Myo Aung were stopped by police on their way to Hmawbi, Taikkyi and Tantabin in Rangoon division to observe the referendum, Nyan Win said.

A sub-inspector of the police security unit stopped their car at a tollgate near Hmabwi and refused to let them proceed, forcing Soe Myint to come back.

In Thararwaddy, the polling station was only opened for a short time in the morning and then closed, and voters were told to go to local government offices to vote.

"Local authorities had collected national registration cards from the voters in the town and bank loan booklets from the rural villagers," Nyan Win said.

"These cards and booklets were only returned to people after they came and voted "Yes" in the referendum."

Nyan Win said there had been reports from all over the country that polling stations were manned and guarded by members of the government-backed Union Solidarity and Development Associations and other people who had nothing to do with the referendum.

"People who went to the polling stations were asked to vote "Yes", and most of the time voters were personally guided by the people waiting there to tick their ballots," he said.

"The voters themselves were not allowed to do anything because the helpers voted "Yes" for them. That has been happening all over the country."

Nyan Win said the party had heard specific reports of these practices from Namti in Shan State, Yamethin in Mandalay division, Yenanchaung and Salin in Magwe Division, Irrawaddy division’s Bassein and Kyonpyaw, and Bago, Nattalin, and Zigon in Bago division.

"It is happening everywhere. [The authorities] are totally disregarding the law and openly and forcefully securing votes in their favour," Nyan Win said.

The party spokesperson said only the government´s supporters were able to observe the vote counts.

U Ko Ko Gyi, a Mandalay NLD member who voted in the referendum and asked to observe the vote count, was told by a polling station officer he would be able to do so and would be telephoned when the process began.

But by the time Ko Ko Gyi arrived, the votes had already been counted and he was told he wold be informed of the results in the future.

"According to law, all polling stations were supposed to close at 4pm but they stopped the referendum in Tharawaddy at around 10am. No local or international observers was allowed to monitor it," Nyan Win said.

"What I want to say is that this referendum is being manipulated according to their liking."

Reporting by DVB

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