BURMA’S IRRAWADDY DELTA REGION has been reduced to a vast stagnant pool and the official death toll from Cyclone Nargis is stretching towards 30,000. Yet even in the face of such epic loss Myanmar’s junta is coldly proceeding with its political wheelings, forcing citizens around the country to vote on a meaningless constitutional referendum.
The Asia Sentinel reported yesterday that Myanmar’s generals announced an overwhelming voter turnout on Sunday, outside of the 47 townships that were affected by the storm. Though journalists were barred from the polls, reports are circulating among Burma watchers and human rights groups that the process was unsurprisingly marred by corruption and fear:
Ballots were reportedly ripped out of hands and “yes” votes marked by election officials. Votes were cast in the presence of soldiers, police and fire fighters ‑ a normally benign group, but in Burma given paramilitary training – both inside and outside polling stations. There are also reports that the junta’s mass organization, the Union Solidarity and Development Association, and the paramilitary Swan Ah Shin, which was involved in the violent crackdown on protestors in September, were also present at the polling stations.
Related media: The International Herald Tribune reports that generals are upholding aid restrictions, as the Guardian posts video footage showing the relief effort and the toll the storm has taken on the country.
If you’re feeling helpless: Mike over at Vagabondish has posted that travelers Nora Dunn and Kelly Bedford are in northern Thailand organizing relief efforts. Read more to learn how you can contribute.