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Referendum: Voices of a nation in distress


Three Pagodas Pass resident, Mon State, Souteast Burma

May 10, 2008 (DVB) , ", The place is crawling with fire brigade members and soldiers. They are guarding the entry and exit points of the town as they are quite worried. They aren’t letting cars in. This is only for today, it will be over by 5 o'clock.

", I have cast mine , we said NO. We have many crosses. We have rallied all our friends and acquaintances, most of them voted NO , there is no intimidation here…they came to give us the polling cards to our houses yesterday by looking at our lists of family members , but they didn't give us the cards. So me and my wife went to the polling station today with our identity cards. They asked us if we had our cards, and when we said we didn't, they said, ‘Go that way to vote’. There are two polling stations in each ward. We gave them our identity card numbers and our parents’ names, and they told us to sign. And they gave us a folded paper, one side is blue and the other side is blank white, Then, we went into the room to do mark our preference. Our names and the names of our parents were not on the paper, nor were our identity card numbers. After ticking, we left the room and put the voting slips into the ballot box,

", they are only guarding the polling stations. There was no rallying of people and the like. No telling people what to do , the majority cast NO votes. We told our people that it is not about electing people. If you like the referendum tick YES. If you don't like it give a cross for NO. That’s what we told people.****

NLD chairman, Madaya, Mandalay Division

", the situation is quite bad. To describe it in general terms, , in some areas they announced on the loudspeaker that if you put a cross to vote NO, you will be given 3-years prison sentence and fined 100,000 kyat in accordance with the law , they are also chasing people who telling the outside world about this , when casting the ballots, the guards and officials manning the polling stations follow voters into the voting booths, they themselves tick [YES] for the voters and the like , when someone voted NO with a cross, they were forced to correct it , at some place they take video and photographs while you are ticking the ballot papers , many people are feeling outraged and angry , sometimes they collected votes seven days in advance from old people, just write in front of us, they told them, and some people didn't even see the voting slips. In some areas, they not only forced the adults, but also other family members,

", this referendum is completely unfair and unclean , many people are feeling outraged, and they come and report it to us , I saw in the rule book that one person must not cast more than one vote, but what we are seeing is , one person can vote on behalf of the whole house , so it cannot be a fair referendum."


Chauk resident, Magwe Division, Upper Burma

", People are still voting. At every polling station, they are blaring out songs supporting the referendum. The policemen in uniform are at the nearest point of the polling stations. USDA, Swan Arr Shin members [pro-junta thugs], with communication machines on their waists and other who are not supposed to be on duty are inside the polling station. Some clerks, while producing ballot papers told voters to tick here and so on. At No. 6, the system there is communal voting in a hall instead of secret ballot. At PE petrol factory, they lined up workers at 6 a.m. and their family members and their manager told them to vote YES and drove them [to the polling station] in petrol office cars. I want to say it straight that there is no freedom in vote casting. We feel that we are being intimidated because security forces were positioned around the polling stations. USDA and Swan Arr Shin members were also presents. And the clerks also told voters to tick YES in the box.

", Zeegyopin village, all the ballot papers were ticked YES and voters were told to just cast them inside the ballot box. You are not allowed to do anything,

"At Neegyike? Village, because of its proximity to H2O factory, villagers were told to cast YES votes. There are many things like that.

"I didn't see them following the rules and regulations of the commission because the clerks told people where to tick, they also issued the rules that no loudspeakers should be used around the polling stations but they themselves are blaring out YES campaign songs at every station and they are still doing so."


Voices from Meikhtila, Upper Burma

", We voted NO. We just don't like them, " – A local woman.

", Yes, I went to vote early this morning, about 6.30 , As expected, a cross [NO] , there are many reasons we can't support them. The worst is their torture and persecution of the public in September and currently, they are not helping but hindering the assistance to the people. We are seeing this on the [satellite] dishes,

", When I voted, they treated me well but it is very different in other places, They forced people to tick YES , The hole for the ballot box is quite big; 1"x5". A child could put his hand into it. It is made of soft cardboard. On TV, they showed wooden ballot boxes but in fact, it is a cardboard box, they are soft ones, not hard, It is easy [to tamper with the boxes]. You can even put your hand in it, I think, " – A local man.

", The assistance people who were wearing security badges followed the voters into the room and told them how to vote if they didn't understand, and forced them to tick YES , Yes, they are forcing people to tick YES. I was watching them , they knew that I was watching them as they were only ten feet away from me , There were six 'wish expressing' rooms. They accompanied voters into the rooms and sometimes they told them how to vote. Tick this box, they told them,

"This is not my assumption. I saw it with my own eyes , in our ward, they employed male and female Red Cross members. The female accompanied female voters and the male accompanied male voters and told tem where to tick,

"It can't be free and fair as I saw some people cast three votes, five votes, some gave nine votes on their own , it happened in every ward. Some people are not interested. Some don't understand , Last night, they woke people up in the middle of the night and told them to cast their votes, We went to the house of our local ward authority chairman to collect my ballot papers , and I found ballot papers were there with open envelopes , someone there came out and told me that he was ticking YES on the papers , His name [the chairman] is U Hla Than, " – A local man.


Nam Kham resident, Shan State, East Burma

", one person could vote for other family members , They also told us to vote YES. If we didn’t, they would interrogate us and deal with us later, they said , people are afraid and voted YES. No one could vote NO , people who were guarding the polling stations, township authorities, clerks, police sergeants, militia, fire brigade members [told us to vote YES],

", Some people didn't know what to do and were told to vote YES, and if they refused their votes were declared void , And those who didn't know how to write or sign their names, were told to use their fingerprints,

", yes, [the guards] themselves ticked YES votes for people , who could not come to vote to save time , some people were not allowed to vote either , and they were told that someone else had voted on their behalf,

", the poll doesn't represent the desire of the people because , it would be right only if people were allowed to choose either YES or NO , some people think that whether you vote YES or NO, they will make it YES anyway and some people were afraid and didn't vote,

", Yes, the resentment among the people will get worse because they are feeling outraged, and there is a possibility of an explosion [of anger] , in a village of 500 voters, there are only five NO votes , because they are afraid , Some Chinese nationals holding Burmese identity cards , the village chief voted YES for them because the officials could not wait for them,


Myingyan resident, Upper Burma

", when I went to the polling station, someone said to me 'let me show you how to vote'. He ticked the right [‘Yes’] box for me and told me to put it into any ballot box,

", some people don't know about it and some do , those who are likely to cause problems, they let them vote on their own. Those who won't or those they are not afraid of they will boss them around and force them,

", there are more people who were forced to vote without understanding anything , at the moment, there are more ‘Yes’ votes. But they are not really ‘Yes’ votes. People were forced to do it without knowing anything , when I asked people what they had done, they said, 'We don't know, they told us to tick here and put it into any ballot box you like'. They were told to put the ready-ticked ‘Yes’ vote papers into any of the ballot box they liked. But they knew why they did it. Voters don't know what to accept and what to protest against.

", the situation in the town is the same everywhere. The difference is whether there are problems in the polling stations or not, I can't speak for other people, but as for me, I will vote ‘No’. Everyone wants to vote ‘No’, but they don't know what they are voting for. If people knew what they were voting for, they would vote ‘No’. There are many people who don't understand it. Those who don't understand anything are voting ‘Yes’. They are deliberately making it confusing for people. They told people to tick ‘Yes’ and people just did it. They placed three or four ballot boxes and they made people think the choice of ballot boxes is the choice for YES or NO,

", why do I want to vote NO?…It is because it is unjust. That is clear. None of them is just and I don’t like any of them , who would tolerate them? No one want to put up with them,

", quite a lot of people have voted … but they are still telling people to vote on the loudspeaker , of course, there is [intimidations] , they are telling people that Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and the like are being given money by foreign [countries], to invade and occupy Burma. ‘You must oppose Daw Aung San Suu Kyi. Support us, or you will be in trouble.’ They told people that and forced them to sign , The following day [polling day], they told people not to come and vote , many people were forced to give YES votes in that way , three quarters of the votes were procured like that. The remaining quarter was procured by underhanded means too at the polling stations , I have nothing else to say, there is only injustice and deception here, "


General situation (11am)

", In Karen State [southeast Burma], they blared out the song 'Let's go to the polling stations and vote' constantly until 10.30am. But there were very few voters , the villagers were too afraid to ask for ballpoint pens and only put blank, white papers [into the ballot boxes],

", In Kyonpyaw, it was officially declared on the loudspeakers that those who vote NO will be given a three-year prison sentence and fined 100,000 [kyat]. We heard from the elected representative Dr Kyi Min Htut , In Pantanaw, Irrawaddy Division, although it was not announced officially through loudspeakers, similar words were heard, "

", In Pyay [Prome], voters are under various kinds of pressure to vote ‘Yes’ and people are allowed to vote for other people, and they have also accepted advance votes. Dr Khin Maung Win from Pyay phoned us, "


Pa-an resident, Karen State capital, East Burma (12.30pm)

", The polling stations opened at 6 o'clock in the morning. People went there but there were not many people queuing at the polling station. Two or three people went there at a time , There was no proper guard at the polling stations. They used the local ward and the school as polling stations , the teachers issued ballot papers. Curtains were used for polling booths and they put the ballot boxes in there.

", I don't know about that [whether people were intimidated or pressured] yet. But at some polling stations, at No. 2 Polling Station, I heard that they followed right behind the voters,

", They blared out songs urging people to vote from some cars that looked like Thingyan floats, manned by people wearing [Union Solidarity and Development Association] badges and drove around the town, preceded by 6-7 motorcycles. USDA members wore white T-shirts with pictures that tell people to vote ‘Yes’ and go to the polling station, "


Kyaukpadaung resident, Upper Burma (9am)

", In the morning, [pro-junta activists] distributed their campaign shirts very early and rallied people. And [Ma-Wa-Ta] township authority chairmen went around in their cars. They forced people who know nothing to wear the shirts , shirts that say to vote YES and to go to the polling booths , But most people were living in fear. When people saw the voting slips, they found out that there were no markings. There are many mistakes at the moment. This is the situation in town. I don't know about the situation in the villages yet,

", Some people are going about their own businesses. Some people went to vote. At Let-pan-pin Village, they told people, just give us your signature. Don’t do anything else. They told people just to sign. They didn't give people voting slips, just forced them to sign and tick the right one [to vote ‘Yes’], .

", That was what happened in Letpanpin village today. In Poppa village yesterday they summoned people and told people to sign or vote. ‘You all have voted yes. Now go home,’ [they told people]. They only allowed the heads of the family to sign, and ticked YES for all other family members over 18 , Some people protested that there was no voting slip and they were told that they had nothing else to do , without voting on the voting slips, they had voted YES , This is what really happened in Letpanpin and Poppa villages.

", The polling stations had been open since last night , only the heads of families had to go and vote ‘Yes’ for the whole family , One girl protested and went to the polling station and demanded they let her vote for herself. But she was told that her father had voted on her behalf, "


Mandalay resident, Upper Burma (8.30am)

"The situation is normal here. No one is interested in it. I haven’t heard anything said about it in teashops. I did hear that the [pro-junta] social affairs members and [Union Solidarity and Development Association] went to the polling stations in their uniforms this morning to cast their votes , between 77th and 35th streets, near Yadanabon Market, , people are acting normally. I haven't heard people talking about it or showing any interest in it. It is very different from the 97 situation, It must be too early. They are just starting to go to work and the like, "


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