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Myanmar constitutional referendum to proceed despite cyclone deaths

[JURIST] A scheduled May 10 referendum [JURIST report] on a draft constitution [JURIST news archives] proposed by Myanmar's ruling junta will proceed as planned despite a devastating weekend storm that left an estimated 4000 people dead and thousands more homeless, state media reported Monday. The New Light of Myanmar [media website] also reported Monday that the country's ruling junta had "expressed surprise" at a recent UN Security Council statement [text] urging that government ensure that the referendum is open and fair. AFP has more.

Opposition groups like the National League for Democracy (NLD) have expressed skepticism at the referendum and urged citizens to reject [JURIST report] the proposed constitution, labeling the referendum a "sham" to legalize military rule. The draft constitution reportedly reserves 25 percent of parliamentary seats for the military [AP report; JURIST report] and would also block pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi [BBC profile; JURIST news archive] from seeking office. Myanmar [JURIST news archive] has been governed without a constitution since the military regime took power in 1988 and talks on a new national charter [JURIST report] have been underway for 14 years. The last general elections in Myanmar were held in 1990. The NLD, led by Aung San Suu Kyi, won that election easily, but the ruling military government did not recognize the result and placed Suu Kyi under house arrest.

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