Residents tricked into attending referendum meeting

Feb 25, 2008 (DVB), Residents of Rangoon's South Dagon township ward 26 were tricked into attending a campaign meeting on the upcoming national referendum, having been told it was a meeting about identity cards.

Ward authorities made an announcement over loudspeakers on 21 February that there would be a meeting where residents could get new identity cards and household lists the following afternoon.

One ward resident said he attended the meeting on 22 February but instead of information about identity cards they were given a talk about the upcoming national referendum.

"In the meeting, they told people to make a wise choice in the national referendum which will be held in accordance with the government's seven-step road map," the resident said.

"They told us not to listen to the lies being broadcast by foreign countries."

The resident said he felt he could not trust the officials when they had lied about the purpose of the meeting.

"Personally, as a Burmese citizen, I have no confidence in what they are doing. Look at today's meeting for example , they started by telling us lies," he said.

"When they called the meeting, they said they would arrange our ID cards and household lists within one day, but when I got to the meeting, I realised it was just for them to say whatever they wanted."

Many people left the meeting when it became clear that they would not get their identity cards, the resident said.

"A lot of the people who attended the meeting got frustrated with the government officials, so they left the meeting before it finished," he said.

"They only wanted to get their ID cards and household lists , that's the true people's desire."

At the end of the meeting, the ward authorities asked those present if there was anything they need, to which people responded that they wanted genuine democracy.

The officials replied that they were on track to bring about this goal, and immediately left the meeting.

There have been similar campaigns in other townships in Rangoon, run by a district fire brigade and a Red Cross organisation, which have been collecting people's opinions to find out if there is opposition to the planned referendum.

Reporting by Naw Say Phaw

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