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Myanmar junta urges citizens to approve constitution in weekend referendum

[JURIST] Myanmar's ruling junta Friday urged the country's citizens to approve the military-backed draft constitution in an upcoming Saturday national referendum [JURIST news archives] that the government has refused to reschedule despite a devastating cyclone last week that may have left up to 100,000 people dead [AP report]. The United Nations estimates that another 1.5 million people have been "severely affected," but the Myanmar regime has thusfar blocked international aid efforts. Reports have also surfaced that a riot broke out [Telegraph report] after the storm in a notorious Rangoon prison used to hold political dissidents; soldiers and police reportedly opened fire on the rioters, killing 36.

Myanmar opposition groups and international figures have slammed the government's decision to go forward with the vote under the circumstances. On Wednesday, European Parliament President Hans-Gert Poettering condemned the decision, while the National League for Democracy Tuesday derided it [JURIST reports] as "extremely unacceptable." Myanmar state media have reported that Saturday's vote will proceed as scheduled in most of the country [JURIST report], although the regime now says that the vote will be postponed in districts hardest hit by the cyclone. Reuters has more.

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