Well, it's not a great surprise that the Burmese authorities have decided to push ahead with the so-called referendum. The very fact that over 20000 people are thought to be dead, around 40000 (or more) missing, and with general chaos ensuing, it's the perfect time for them to bury the majority of consitituion before it gets anywhere. It must be noted that it is not holding the referendum in the capital, nor the affected Irrawaddy Delta, but to hold a national referendum at a time of crisis, leads one to cycnically assume that it allows the government greater chance to leverage its people to ensure the correct 'democratic' vote is made. I hope I am proved wrong, but with attention of hte media diverted to the plight of the Irrawaddy delta, how transparent and fair will the voting be, and will people be prepared to vote against a government wishes in such a time of crisis?

There are far more important issues to sort in the short-term, and the response of the ogvernment to aid reciepts has been deplorable. Let's hope the international community offers more than rhetoric this time and can really ensure that the people who need the aid recieve it, and without conditionality.

 

news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/asia-pacific/7393588.stm

Burma votes amid cyclone aid row

Some aid is reaching Burma, but not the aid workers

A constitutional referendum is being held in Burma despite calls from the outside world for a postponement after last week's devastating cyclone.

Voting is under way in most of the country - but has been delayed in the worst-hit areas, including Rangoon.

The poll comes amid mounting international criticism of Burma's military rulers for their handling of the response to the crisis.

They say they will welcome overseas aid but not foreign relief workers.

The UN fears the death toll from the cyclone could reach 100,000.

The referendum has been postponed for two weeks in Rangoon, the country's main city, and the Irrawaddy delta, which took the full force of Cyclone Nargis.

The country's ruling generals say the referendum will pave the way for democratic elections in 2010, while the opposition says it is intended to tighten the generals' rule.

Correspondents say many people in Burma are cynical about the vote.

"They take your name and ID number. Then they know if you give them a tick or a cross," an unnamed businessman told Reuters news agency.

Reporting on the referendum from Hlegu, 48km (30 miles) north of Rangoon, the Associated Press says turnout has been very light.

One voter, retired soldier Nyo Aye, said he had voted Yes even though he had not read the constitution.

"The government would not do anything inappropriate or bad for the country," the 65-year-old said.

Incommunicado

The Burmese generals have been criticised for their handling of the crisis in which officially 23,335 people were killed and 37,019 are missing.

Groups involved in last year's pro-democracy protests accused the junta of concentrating on a "sham constitutional referendum" instead of "putting all resources toward saving the lives" of cyclone victims.

The UN has launched a $187m (£96m) appeal for aid.