Malaysia: Hundreds Of Activists Stage Protest In Malaysia Against Myanmar Referendum

  • Myanmar protester shouts slogan in protest against Myanmar's referendum outside the Myanmar Embassy in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, Friday, 9 May. (Photo courtesy: AP Photo/Lai Seng Sin)

  • Malaysian aid workers pack relief supplies into boxes for cyclone victims in Myanmar in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, Thursday, 7 May. (Photo courtesy: AP Photo)

KUALA LUMPUR: About 500 Myanmar activists demonstrated Saturday (10 May) outside their country's embassy in Malaysia, demanding that Myanmar's military regime call off its constitutional referendum even as voting began despite a devastating cyclone.

The protesters, who included dozens of women and children, waved placards saying "We want democracy", "No is our vote", "Stop the junta" and "Don't hold the referendum during mourning days."

Most of them wore red T-shirts bearing the word "No". Several people gave speeches and the crowd kept silent at one point to pray for victims of Cyclone Nargis, which struck the Myanmar coast a week ago and left more than 60,000 people dead or missing.

The one-hour rally was peaceful and the crowd dispersed after handing over a protest note to an embassy staff member. Dozens of riot police stood guard but took no action against the crowd.

"The constitution will neither yield national reconciliation nor democracy, instead it will prolong conflict and enhance problems and turmoil that will lead to the fleeing of citizens to neighboring countries," the protest note said.

They activists urged Myanmar's military rulers to launch genuine dialogue with all ethnic groups toward democracy.

Balloting was taking place Saturday across most of Myanmar but was put off for two weeks in cyclone-hit areas including the biggest city, Yangon. The government has called the vote an important step on its "roadmap to democracy," but critics say the constitution is meant to perpetuate military rule.

"We have no future and no hope. They shouldn't have a referendum because the government is forcing our people (to vote) by aiming the gun," said Richard Burton, a Myanmar activist.

Myanmar has been under military rule since 1962. It has been widely criticized for human rights abuses and suppression of pro-democracy parties like that led by Nobel Peace Prize laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, who remains under house arrest. (AP)

MySinchew 2008.05.10