Aung San Suu Kyi’s opposition party has rejected the Burma junta’s claim that more than 92 per cent of voters approved a military-backed constitution in the first round of a referendum last week.
“This result is completely incorrect,” said Nyan Win, spokesman for the opposition National League for Democracy (NLD).
“They forced the people to vote Yes – and did not allow ballots to be cast in secret,” he said.
Burma held the referendum across most of the country on May 10, even though huge swathes of land were still underwater from a cyclone that has left 133,000 people dead or missing.
The junta, which says the new constitution will pave the way to democratic elections in two years, announced on Thursday that 92.4 per cent of voters had approved the charter, with a 99 per cent turnout.
Nyan Win also said that the Government should not have announced the results until the second round of voting on May 24, when the regime plans to hold the balloting in areas devastated by the cyclone.
“This referendum result is not in accordance with the law. They should only announce the results after everyone finishes voting,” he said.
The NLD has denounced the regime for holding the referendum while 2.5 million people still need food, shelter and medicine.
The party says the constitution will enshrine the power of the generals, who have ruled the country for nearly half a century.
The last time there was a national ballot, in 1990, Aung San Suu Kyi won in a landslide. She was never allowed to rule, and instead has been under house arrest for much of the time since.
Among its provisions, the constitution would make it illegal for her to ever hold office.
Doctors allowed in
Meanwhile, dozens of Asian doctors have headed into Burma to treat survivors of the cyclone.
They are the biggest group of foreigners so far allowed in to help cyclone victims but international aid agencies say that, with 2.5 million needy survivors, a greater and faster relief effort is desperately needed.
Burma officials also took a group of foreign diplomats to tour the Irrawaddy delta, the hardest-hit region in the impoverished country’s rice-growing south, where the junta has blocked outsiders from entering.
But diplomats held little hope they would see the most devastated regions, where reporters say corpses still lie in rice fields, while thousands of people huddle in schools and Buddhist temples, still waiting for help.
France’s ambassador to the United Nations, Jean-Maurice Ripert, warned that the tragedy was turning “slowly from a situation of not helping people in danger to a real risk of crimes against humanity, and we cannot accept that.”
He told reporters he made the warning during a closed-door session of the UN General Assembly.
“I said that what is going on is unacceptable, that the aid was not getting there, and that people were dying today not just because of the cyclone anymore, but also because Burma authorities refuse to authorise international aid,” Ripert said.
State television on Friday put the latest toll at 77,738 dead and 55,917 missing from cyclone Nargis, which barrelled into the country on May 2-3, wiping away entire villages and submerging swathes of land under flood waters.
The figures were nearly double those of the previous day. The announcement said the scale of the devastation and heavy rains since the storm hit had slowed down confirmation of the tally.
The United States, a fierce critic of alleged human rights abuses in Burma, said the Government had shown signs it was willing to allow non-governmental organisations (NGOs) handle some aid for storm victims.
Two shipments of US aid were for the first time given directly to relief groups rather than handled by the military regime, State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said, adding that nine more flights were set for this weekend.
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