Tuesday, March 04, 2008
FIRST ARRESTS UNDER JUNTA'S REFERENDUM RULES
urma's sick joke has struck its first blow for ridiculousness. The rule against opposing the unknown draft constitution, or the referendum to accept or reject it slated for May, has taken its first three victims.
The Rangoon car market was visited on Friday by members of the Union Solidarity and Development Association (USDA is a junta-sponsored civilian thug group which participated in the violent crackdown against freedom advocates last September). They wanted to talk about the draft constitution and referendum with the car brokers. An anonymous businessman told The Irrawaddy what happened.
"Then the brokers told the USDA members in joking that they ‘should not waste their time’ because in the final days people would vote as recommended by the NLD [led by Aung San Suu Kyi]. Later the special police came and arrested three of them."A Rangoon lawyer said he was unsure whether these people would be charged under the rules announced last month, outlawing opposition to the referendum (with a penalty of three years in prison), or under an earlier "emergency decree" which outlaws opposition to the constitutional process (which carries a penalty of up to 20 years).
An eyewitness also spoke to Mizzima News saying that the three, all aged around 40, worked at the Hantharwaddy Car Dealers Centre and were taken to Kamaryout police station.
"Authorities came to the Hantharwaddy Car Dealers Centre and told people that they need to register themselves for the upcoming poll on the draft constitution. But some of the car brokers said, 'We are not interested in the poll and if we have no choice but to vote then we will vote for the NLD (National League for Democracy).' Later three people were taken by the authorities," said the eyewitness.The referendum "campaign" will certainly be interesting, now that the junta has confirmed that only "yes" will be permitted, and "no" will be punished.
More family members of the 88 Generation activists were arrested last week. UN envoy Ibrahim Gambari is expected to be allowed into Burma on Thursday.