I Want My MRTV


The list of things the Burmese government has bungled over the past two weeks includes its own propaganda campaign:

AS HUNDREDS of thousands of refugees waited for emergency relief yesterday and for their leaders to act, the Burmese junta went ahead with a national referendum aimed at keeping its members in power.

The Burmese generals were visible all right. State television showed them handing out boxes of the small amount of aid allowed in from neighbouring Thailand. Unwittingly, it also showed that the Burmese leadership had plastered their own names over the true origins of the food aid to fool their own people into believing that the emergency relief supplies had come from them.

I'd rather consider this the work of a disgruntled MRTV employee. Endless MRTV-3 segments featuring officials shaking hands in celebration of their bang-up job on cyclone relief are here and here.

Meanwhile, the government is holding a vote on its 194-page constitution, available only in languages 40 percent of the population cannot read. According to the New York Times, officials have pushed cyclone refugees out of schoolhouses in order to use them as polling places. In this, too, the regime has managed to gum up its message machine. The country's "roadmap to democracy" is widely regarded as Than Shwe's attempt to soften criticism of his government, and the constitutional referendum is probably a ploy for international legitimacy in response to pressure from the region. It…doesn't seem to be working at the moment.