Here are some views of Rangoon citizens expressed in personal and phone interviews conducted by Mizzima. This feature will be periodically updated over the following days.
Senior assistant teacher
"As for us, we will vote 'NO' whatever they [junta officials] do. It does not matter. Whatever they do we will vote 'NO'. Currently there is no pressure on civil servants. And despite any threats and pressure we will do what we want to. We all have the right to vote freely. I voted for the NLD in 1990 and I will vote 'NO' because I do not understand the laws they have made".
An assistant medical doctor
"Because of being a civil servant I am afraid to talk about this. I have no idea what will happen in the future. There is a rumor that if a civil servant votes 'NO' he or she will be jailed. If that happens I will not vote. But if voting is free and is not monitored by the government, so that nobody can see my vote, then it is great for me. They are dishonest. I would vote 'NO'. I do not understand the constitution very well. As far as I understand, it is aimed at their [the military's] well being."
A company employee
"I previously told every family member not to vote. But after deep consideration, if we do not vote they [the government] will manage our votes - so we made up our minds to vote 'NO'. We are not afraid of their threats. No one has the opportunity to know how we have voted. It is unfair if a person is arrested because of voting 'NO'. Who can tolerate it? We do not understand their laws and we do not believe them. In my mind they are doing it for themselves."
"I have not seen the draft constitution and do not understand it. It has been published for people to read but I have not found it anywhere. It would cost money to buy it. How will poor people buy it? Poor people will be mobilized to vote 'YES'. It is better for me not to vote. If I have to vote I will vote 'NO'. I am worried my vote will be manipulated by them."
A trishaw man
"I know nothing about voting YES or NO and for what? I have never seen the draft constitution. We are in a hand to mouth situation daily. I have no time to be interested in it but I do not like what they do" said a trishaw man.
A company staff member
"I will vote NO. They are dishonest and I have no idea if there will be fraud. And they might confuse people about the electoral system. In the previous election we had to cross what we chose so someone might think giving cross means choosing what he or she does not want. At that time NLD emerged victorious. The current situation is more complicated than before because their followers are campaigning about it. Most of the people dare not express their will because they are afraid of their guns. It is becoming harder and harder for the poor and they are not interested in politics and I am worried about poor people following their campaign. I am confident that even though they will vote YES because of fear, they would like to vote NO. So they should be encouraged to express their will and they don't need to be afraid of threats. It is best to explain to people to understand that it is unfair if one is arrested for voting NO. And I think all people should be told about the voting method and voting system," said a company staff member.
A taxi driver
"Even though I do not understand the draft constitution it is obvious that the aim of drafting the constitution is to prolong their rule. I will vote NO for the biased constitution so that the country does not get worse and worse. I will encourage my friends to vote NO," said a taxi driver.
"They cannot generate and supply water and electricity even though water resources are aplenty. They can just fire bullets. The draft constitution is meaningless because it was written by such a government. I will vote NO," said a trader.
"There is no preparation for the referendum which will be held in May. The result might be as the government has planned. If there is no transparency in counting votes they could manipulate the result as they want and it does not depend on how people vote.
As for me, to vote NO is more than possible. Not to vote is practically impossible. Most people do not know about that. I am interested in it and I have a constitution published after the national convention. One of my friends said that the draft constitution is available at a book company and also it can be bought in journal stores. I have not found it till now. Most people are busy with their business and have no time to read it.
"It is obvious, as Ko Aung Din has written in a letter, that it was managed and aimed at legitimising military rule. The commander-in-chief and soldiers, appointed by the commander-in-chief, will have 6 out of 11 votes of the National Security and Defence Council. So the decision of National Security and Defence Council is the same as that of the commander-in-chief. That council can order a state of emergency. So to order a state of emergency depends on the commander-in-chief."
"I think there is no progress. If the draft constitution is approved our primary dilemma will be internal politics and international politics. Nothing will change. It will get worse."
"The form virtually exists but not in practice. The Prime Minister of the State must be appointed by the respective state congress. But state congress has no authority to do so. The President has to appoint, any suitable person he thinks. One changeable thing is over 75%. There will be 75% of peoples' representatives in parliament. Even though all representatives, elected by people, support change it is not possible to change because the rest of the representatives are appointed by the commander-in-chief. So to change it needs the commander's agreement. Even though all the 100% representatives, elected by people, support change it is impossible to change because they are 75% of the 100 % in the parliament."
Dagon Taryar , veteran writer
"According to the written-words, the words are good, but they don't follow what they said and wrote. It is difficult to comment on that. The constitution should represent the people and their desires. It is a federal constitution, they said. We have not had the constitution under British colonial era in Burma. I have actively participated for independence for Burma, and we have demonstrated freely for rights under the British rule. On December 15 and 25, 1938, we were not allowed to walk in a line on the street according to the Act 144. I had to hold the flag, but this was not my duty. This duty to hold the flag was Ko Kyi Maung's, who was a member of central executive committee of students union. I was not a central executive member of the union."
In 1934-40, the president of students union was Ko Hla Shwe. He had been attending medical college. In 1940-41, Ko Hla Maung was thee president of the students union, a former ambassador. The word "Federal" was taken from English literature. According to the dictionary and political words this does not mean to secede. The word "Federal" means the unity of different ones. I mean unity, and it is not seceding. It is trying to form not to secede. If the situation is not good for reaching an agreement among the states, states can secede. I remember USA's constitution is a federal constitution, and the states are not going to secede."
"But, Soviet Union has collapsed. It has rights of secession. It will take me time to talk about the collapse of Soviet Union. Ukraine and Georgia were previously states of Soviet Union. At that time Soviet Socialist Republic was named. In my memory when it was time to draft the constitution there were 14 states, each state had to draw constitution on their own. They were not able to draw that on their own."
"I would like to say found an umbrella group included by all parties. Umbrella group means unity. Then, call for parliament. General Saw Maung promised to call for parliament during the 1990 election in Burma. He said that SLORC will transfer the power to the winning party after election, which meant a civil government. Then, it changed by circumstances."
"Ko Aung San was there while the constitution was drawn. They had put some facts from the Soviet Union after reading the Soviet constitution, and after ten years of constitution they had put the rights of secession. It did not mean to secede. Each state has opportunity to hold its own rules and orders. Some countries in the world are the union of states. During the colonial era Shan State was called Federated Shan state. It had meant 'Federal'. In 1939, when we were in Shan State, we had seen Shan police in blue uniform and red head holder, rather than in gray uniforms. That shows Shan's traditional culture."
"I said call for parliament. In 1990, there were no chance to call for the parliament, and now parliamentary members have been decreasing because of death and ageing. I want to use the old book, and I want to use the old parliament. There are many available positions. All parties must involve in a new election. No party should be left out from participating in the election. Call for a parliament by combining old and new. People's parliament is the highest power of the country. Daw Amar supported that."
"If the equity is strong, unity is going to be strong. If unity is strong, independence is going to be strong. We should have opposition groups for the country if unity is there. If the person is simple and honest, he or she should welcome criticism. This does not mean looking down on oneself. This is not to overthrow oneself because of parliamentary election. People's parliament is elected and by the people. The draft constitution would not be published and could not be found to be bought. The draft constitution should represent most peoples' will."
Aye Lwin (New Generation Group, rival to pro-democracy 88 Generation Student Group)
"I've not read the constitution, and I don't think we agree with the constitution".
"In fact, we want a multi-party system of parliamentary democracy. It doesn't mean a single party system. In the election all the political parties can freely participate rather than a single party. We can establish our own party, and we can organize and campaign for election for our party. So, this multi-party system is formed by this constitution."
"We know that we have SPDC (State Peace and Development Council) or had the SLORC (State Law and Order Restoration Council) military regime in Burma. Our country has also been ruled by general Nay Win for 26 years, who had formed the Burma Socialist Programme Party (BSPP) and the rule of the military junta has been on for 46 years. So our country is under martial law. We do want to end this governing system."
"Our people can form their own political party. They can compete freely in the election. They can get freedom of speech and freedom of patent etc. These freedoms will be opportunities given by the constitution."
"The constitution should promise multi-party democracy. We need this. So, if the referendum gets supportive votes of over 51% of the eligible voting people, we will surely have this constitution adopted for our country."
"If it happens like that, the military regime can rule up to 2010. If it doesn't happen like that, the military regime will be ruling by martial law without a constitution. That is we should recognize the unstable political situation."
"So, we want to say the eligible voting people should go to vote 'YES' for the constitution for the country. From that constitution, although the army will get the leading political positions, we can hope that we will get freedoms in politics, economics, and civil rights etc. If these rights do not disappear by this military regime's constitution and we can go ahead, that will be beneficial for our country, I believe."
"So, we can get our citizen's rights and freedom from the constitution better than under 46 years long military rule. So, we see this is a positive outcome in our country in terms of politics. So, we want to say people should go to vote 'YES' for the constitution. We will go to vote 'YES'. We have already made up our mind to vote 'YES'."