Burma’s regime must postpone its referendum

Burma’s regime must postpone its referendum
Photo: DPA
The military regime in Burma must delay its planned constitutional referendum in light of the dramatic natural catastrophe that has hit the Southeast Asian country, argues German Christian Democratic MP Erika Steinbach.

Burma is experiencing the world’s largest humanitarian catastrophe since the devastating tsunami in 2006. According to reports in the media, the number of victims could rise to a staggering 100,000 people.

The German parliament’s committee for human rights was briefed on Wednesday about the humanitarian situation there and the aid efforts by the international community. I welcome that the German government has increased its immediate humanitarian aid to €1 million. The generous American engagement with more than $3.2 million in aid must also be mentioned.

But the catastrophe caused by Cyclone Nargis has political as well as humanitarian implications. The Burmese military regime has scheduled a constitutional referendum for this weekend with the aim of cementing the junta’s grip on power. That the junta still wants to hold the referendum despite the widespread chaos across much of the country shows its utter lack of compassion.

The government’s entire focus is desperately needed to coordinate relief efforts and the distribution of aid. But apparently the regime is more concerned with clinging to power than caring for its own citizens.

I call on the government in Burma to postpone the referendum until the population throughout the entire country is safe and widespread reconstruction efforts have begun.

Erika Steinbach is the human rights and humanitarian aid spokeswoman for the Christian Democrats’ parliamentary group.

Translation by The Local.