Apr 1, 2008 (DVB), Referendum: It is a big word and a big opportunity for the Burmese people. Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem to be a genuine one.
The State Peace and Development Council has officially announced that it will hold a national referendum on its draft constitution this coming May.
How are Burmese people inside and outside the country going to respond? Will the majority say yes to this referendum organized by the so-called government, or will they vote No?
The referendum this May is the talk of Burmese communities inside and outside the country.
People are advocating various responses to the referendum, with some activists campaigning for people to boycott the vote, while others are urging them to vote No.
What is certainly true is that no one except the followers of the SPDC and the regime's leaders accepts the current dictatorship system.
There is a wealth of evidence which shows the Burmese people’s desire, including the U Thant demonstration, labour protests, the historic 1988 uprising and most recently the September 2007 protests, initiated mainly by the monks.
People definitely comprehend the military regime's cruelty and mismanagement on a daily basis, which can be seen in rising levels of poverty, human rights abuses, forced labour, high migration rates to bordering countries, more refugees and more political prisoners, just to name a few.
Furthermore, the uncountable abuses and killings of monks and civilians in last September's protests show how the brutal military regime known as the SPDC doesn’t even care about the religion which it pretends to believe in and respect.
What will people decide to do in the referendum? Opinions published and broadcast by the media are divided.
On the radio, people hear messages such as, "Vote No in the Referendum" and "The constitution drawn up by the SPDC does not represent the people". In the journals and newspapers, they read, "Don’t go to the polls" and "Vote No to the constitution".
So many different campaigns and advocacy directed towards the Burmese people are currently appearing in the media, in addition to the government's pro-constitution propaganda in the state media outlets.
However, there are many people who aren’t aware of political issues, tripartite dialogue or their right to freedom of expression, since all semblances of a free media and genuine education system have been destroyed by the military regime.
Even though people know the true nature of the SPDC, and because of this, they are already living in a world of fear.
Fear and propaganda
Of course people absolutely oppose the military regime, a real dictatorship which always solves problems with guns.
Some say they will use guns again to force people to say yes to them.
The SPDC can take advantage of people's lack of political awareness and use propaganda to disguise their genuine intentions.
Even if the people vote No in the referendum, the SPDC has many dirty tricks up its sleeve, so there is no difference between voting Yes or No in the referendum if the outcome will be rigged by the SPDC.
Another important factor is that the SPDC already has many well-organized groups like the Union Solidarity and Development Association, Swan Arr Shin and other so-called civil organizations, such as the Myanmar Women's Affairs Federation.
All are under the SPDC’s control, and as a result, the majority will vote Yes out of fear of reprisals.
It is true that people lack awareness of politics and of the constitution. And of course everyone is afraid of being killed or living in fear amid gunshots.
Even so, the people are always ready to express their aspirations when it is needed.
By looking back again to protests such as the 1988 uprising and the September 2007 protests, we can see the courage of the people to stand up to the regime.
The best evidence to show the bravery of the people is the 1990 election. Even the groups thought to be followers of the SPDC such as soldiers, civil servants and other public officials directly voted for the National League for Democracy.
More recently, people have already had enough confirmation from seeing how the army tortured the monks in September to know that the SPDC doesn’t even care about religion in its determination to stay in power.
Thus, in the May referendum, the majority of people will unquestionably say No again, despite their fears.
Before you decide to vote Yes or No, think of the young generation and consider how they are living under the military regime. Think of how the SPDC has killed people and how they are destroying various religions, especially in the September protests inside Burma.
How about you? How would you vote: Yes or No?