Cyclone Could Weaken Junta's Grip

Upcoming vote could challenge government
By Matt Cantor,  Newser User
Posted May 8, 2008 9:35 AM CDT
A Thai soldier pulls a cart loaded with supplies for victims of a devastating cyclone in Burma at a warehouse near the military airport in Bangkok, Thailand Tuesday, May 6, 2008.    (AP Photo/Apichart Weerawong)
camera-icon View 2 more images

(Newser) – The devastation of cyclone Nargis could spur stronger opposition to Burma’s ruling junta, the Christian Science Monitor reports. “It could be quite catalytic, like the [2004] tsunami in Aceh,” says a regional aid director. The government, reluctant to allow outside aid, has struggled to cope with the disaster, and Saturday’s constitutional referendum may be an opportunity for Burmese to retaliate.

Citizens could vote “no,” sending a powerful message to a government facing growing resentment over its handling of the disaster. While soldiers are working for relief in wealthy areas of Rangoon, the New York Times notes, poor areas have seen “no soldiers at all,” said a resident. On the other hand, analysts note, this is a government that held out against widespread protests last year; a storm may not sway it. (Read more Burma stories.)