Myanmar’s Suu Kyi warns against flood-linked vote tampering

Yangon: Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi expressed concern today that massive flooding in much of the country might be used as a pretext to undermine November’s general election.

In a video appealing to the international community to help flood victims, the Nobel Peace Prize laureate drew a parallel with a referendum, carried out under military rule in 2008, that brought in the current much-maligned constitution.

The voting took place during widespread chaos following Cyclone Nargis, which killed an estimated 140,000 people.

According to the official results, the charter was overwhelmingly confirmed, but many reports cast doubt on the fairness of the vote and the results. The constitution was drafted under military supervision and enshrines its dominance in government, making substantial democratic reforms difficult to achieve.

Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy, which boycotted the 2010 general election, is expected to pose a strong challenge to the ruling Union Solidarity and Development Party this November.

The death toll from recent weeks of flooding is at least 69, and more than 259,000 people across 12 of the country’s 14 states and regions have been affected, according to the UN Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. The floodwaters have been spreading from northern and central Myanmar to the populous Irrawaddy Delta, the country’s rice bowl.

“Floods have inundated more than 1 million acres of farmland. Damage to crops and arable land is likely to disrupt the planting season,” the agency said in its latest report. It said priority needs include “food, water and sanitation, access to health care, and provision or repair of shelter.”

“We do not want this natural disaster to be a reason for upsetting the necessary political process without which our country will not be able to make long term progress,” Suu Kyi said in her video, which was posted on her Facebook page.

She reminded viewers of the 2008 referendum on the constitution, which “raised very many questions about the effectiveness of that referendum, about how acceptable the results of that referendum were.”

“We do not want such questions to be raised this time with regard to our elections. So let us deal with what we need to deal now, and in the best way possible, to make sure that the future of our people, socially, economical and politically, is assured,” she said.