Myanmar nationals protest constitution in Singapore, 27 Apr 2008

SINGAPORE (Reuters) – Hundreds of Myanmar nationals, many wearing red or t-shirts with the word “No”, gathered outside the Myanmar embassy in Singapore on Sunday to protest against the country’s proposed new constitution.

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Myanmar nationals queue to vote, outside the embassy of Myanmar in Singapore April 27, 2008. Hundreds of Myanmar nationals gathered outside the embassy in Singapore on Sunday as they waited for their turn to vote in the country’s constitutional referendum. REUTERS/Vivek Prakash

Public protest is rare in Singapore, where all outdoor demonstrations are banned and a public gathering of more than four people requires a permit.

According to Myanmar nationals outside the embassy, citizens living in Singapore can this week vote on whether to accept or reject a constitution written by the country’s military leaders.

But they said most of them were turned away because they lacked documentation such as a form certifying that they had paid their taxes.

“We are here to cast our votes. We will wait until we can vote,” said one of the waiting crowd, who said he was a student called James.

A female companion with him, who declined to be named, said the organizers provided the red t-shirts as well as drinks and snacks to people waiting outside the embassy.

The group, which at one point raised their Myanmar passports in the air to demonstrate their nationality, was well-organized, and largely peaceful, following instructions from the Singapore police to make way for passing traffic and clearing rubbish from the ground.

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Police officers stand outside the gates of the embassy of Myanmar in Singapore. REUTERS/Vivek Prakash

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Myanmar nationals hold up their passports outside the embassy of Myanmar in Singapore. REUTERS/Vivek Prakash

Some monks were seen walking through the crowd.

An official from the Myanmar embassy declined comment when contacted, while Singapore police on the ground declined to speak to Reuters.

“We have the impression they don’t want us to vote,” said an organizer of the event who identified himself as William Thein. “People are very sure the junta will cheat. We can only wear these caps and t-shirts to show that the people are overwhelmingly against this unfair referendum.”

Myanmar’s opposition National League for Democracy has called for a rejection of the constitution, drafted over the last 14 years by an army-picked committee.

Other underground opposition groups are also pushing for the former Burma’s 53 million people to reject the charter. At least 60 people have been arrested in Myanmar for wearing t-shirts urging people to vote “No” in the May 10 constitutional referendum.

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