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Burma claims high turnout in referendum

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Latest update : 2008-05-11

Burma's state media reported a "massive turnout" in the national referendum, which the military regime held despite devastation from cyclone Nargis. FRANCE 24's Anaïs Boussat reports from Rangoon.

Myanmar state media said Sunday there was "massive turnout" in the country's national referendum, which the military regime held the previous day despite widespread damage from Cyclone Nargis.
  
Polling hours even were extended in some places to let people cast their ballots in the referendum, which was held Saturday in most of the country, the official New Light of Myanmar newspaper said.
  
"The referendum was held successfully ... with massive turnout of the citizens," the paper said in its story -- which made no mention of the storm or the 60,000 people left dead or missing.
  
The country's secretive military leaders went ahead with the vote to ratify a new constitution, which critics say is intended to entrench the military's grip on power, despite intense international criticism.
  
The regime, deeply suspicious of foreigners, has refused to allow in foreign aid workers to help cope with the catastrophe, which has left an estimated 1.5 million people in need of emergency relief.
  
Amid complaints about the slow relief effort, the government went ahead with the vote except in the districts hardest hit by the storm, which barrelled into the nation's southern delta on May 3.
  
Formerly known as Burma, the country is one of the poorest and most isolated in the world -- and has been ruled by the military since 1962.
  
Aid groups say it is essential to get foreign aid experts into the country as soon as possible, including personnel with disaster expertise, and that more people could die unless supplies reach the neediest quickly.
  
The regime has said it welcomes aid from abroad but that it must supervise deliveries itself.
  
In a separate story, the New Light of Myanmar said that foreign aid has continued to flow into the country and that it was being delivered to hard-hit areas "by helicopters, by car and by boat without delay."

Date created : 2008-05-11

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