Generals ignore calls to delay poll

UN calls on Myanmar to focus efforts on cyclone aid and not referendum.

    International calls have been growing for Myanmar to focus efforts on aid before the referendum [Reuters]

    Ban Ki-moon said on Thursday he is "deeply concerned about the welfare of the people of Myanmar" at what he said was a "time of national tragedy".


    Myanmar's government has said it will postpone the referendum for two weeks in 47 towns and cities, including the city of Yangon and parts of the hard-hit Irrawaddy delta area.


    But it is calling is calling on citizens in other parts of the impoverished nation to turn out and support the referendum,


    In depth: Myanmar cyclone

    Witness: 'Utter devastation'

    Millions displaced

    Lessons from Aceh

    Generals' grip threatened

    Storm smashes Myanmar 'rice bowl'

    Map: Cyclone's deadly path

    Satellite photos:

    Before and after

    Timeline: Asia's worst storms

    Picture gallery

    The referendum is designed to win support for a constitution drafted by the military and reports in state-run media have made it clear that it is a national duty to vote "yes".


    Myanmar's ruling generals say the constitution, which has taken them 14 years to draw up, is a key step in what it calls a "roadmap to democracy", paving the way to elections in 2010.


    But critics say the document is a sham intended to legitimise the generals' hold on power.


    Myanmar's opposition National League for Democracy (NLD) party, led by detained Nobel peace laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, has called for the government to postpone the referendum.


    "With this situation, it is not the appropriate time to hold the referendum," Nyan Win, NLD spokesman, told the AFP news agency.


    The NLD and other pro-democracy groups in the country have had little ability to campaign for a "no" vote as the government has outlawed speeches and leaflets about the referendum.


    The referendum will be the country's first ballot since the May 27, 1990 election which the NLD won by a landslide.


    The government refused to recognise the results and launched a bloody crackdown on student-led street protests.


    The ruling military has been impervious to appeals to allow international monitoring of the referendum.


    Earlier this year it told Ibrahim Gambari, the UN's envoy for Myanmar, that the country would not allow outsiders to interfere with its sovereignty.


    Gambari made a number of visits to Myanmar in the aftermath of protests in September last year that killed at least 31 people and left large numbers missing.


    In 2005 Myanmar's ruling generals increased their isolation from the rest of the world and their country's own population by moving the capital from Yangon, Myanmar's biggest city, to the new, purpose-built city of Naypyidaw in the north of the counrty.


    Local rumour ascribed the move to the advice of fortune-tellers, who foretold revolt and disaster in Yangon.

    SOURCE: Agencies


    Lost childhoods: Nigeria's fear of 'witchcraft' ruins young lives

    Lost childhoods: Nigeria's fear of 'witchcraft' ruins young lives

    Many Pentecostal churches in the Niger Delta offer to deliver people from witchcraft and possession - albeit for a fee.

    The priceless racism of the Duke of Edinburgh

    The priceless racism of the Duke of Edinburgh

    Prince Philip has done the world an extraordinary service by exposing the racist hypocrisy of "Western civilisation".

    Why a hipster, vegan, green tech economy is not sustainable

    Why a hipster, vegan, green tech economy is not sustainable

    Improving eco-efficiency within a capitalist growth-oriented system will not save the environment.