Regime punish no voters
Burma’s military government claimed the national referendum vote for their constitution was a resounding success; saying more than 90 percent of people supported it.
But many villagers say the facts behind the regime’s success tell a different story. Villagers spoken to by Inside News allege the regime cheated and bullied their way through the referendum.
Saw Ber Htoo, a district coordinator for the Committee of Internally Displaced Karen People says in Nyaunglegin district that more than 200 villagers who disobeyed the regime’s orders to vote ‘yes’ had to leave their village and take refugee in the mountains.
“The Burma army soldiers told villagers that if they do not go to vote ‘yes’, they would be fined 100,000 Kyat and [sentenced] to three years in jail. The villagers disobeyed and said they are not going even if they have to pay a fine and go to jail.”
After villagers refusal to vote, soldiers restricted their travel and forced them to work as unpaid laborers.
Saw Ber Htoo says villagers are now struggling and have nowhere to live.
“Villagers from these areas have been forced to relocate several times and they do not have land where they live to grow food. They have to forage for food from the jungle.”
Saw Ber Htoo says villagers who stayed are worst off.
“They’re not allowed to go out of the village. The soldiers them forced to work; carrying supplies, building the army camp, collecting wood and bamboo and digging trenches for the soldiers.”
Saw Ber Htoo says this happen more in village tracts where people didn’t vote ‘yes’.
“The Burmese army officially didn’t have to say this is the punishment for not going to vote, but it is obvious because of the increase in forced labor and restrictions on villages that didn’t vote.”
The villagers force to leave are now living in IDPs camps in the jungle and being looked after by the Karen National Union district and township officials but they are low on food and live in fear of attack from the Burma army.