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Myanmar opposition slams junta for proceeding with referendum after cyclone

[JURIST] Myanmar opposition group the National League for Democracy (NLD) Tuesday slammed the country's ruling junta for plans to go ahead with a scheduled May 10 referendum on a draft constitution [JURIST news archives] despite a devastating weekend storm that left at least 15,000 people dead and thousands more homeless. The NLD accused the government of ignoring storm victims' immediate needs in favor of pushing forward with the referendum, behavior it labeled as "extremely unacceptable." Myanmar state television has reported that Saturday's vote will proceed as scheduled in most of the country, although the regime now says in something of a climbdown that the vote will be postponed in districts hardest hit by the cyclone. AFP has more. Australia's ABC has additional coverage.

The NLD and other opposition groups 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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