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Myanmar votes across cyclone zone

The polls open at 6:00 am (2330 GMT) across the main city of Yangon and the southern Irrawaddy Delta for a referendum on a new constitution.

world Updated: May 24, 2008 08:09 IST

Myanmar voters in cyclone-hit regions went to the polls on Saturday for a referendum on a new constitution, which the ruling junta says was overwhelmingly approved in a first round of voting.

The regime opened polls at 6:00 am (2330 GMT) across the main city of Yangon and the southern Irrawaddy Delta, where entire villages were washed away by Cyclone Nargis three weeks ago.

The military says the constitution will pave the way for democratic elections in 2010, but democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi's party has deplored the vote.

Her National League for Democracy says the constitution will enshrine military rule, and has denounced the regime for focusing on its referendum rather than on delivering aid to cyclone victims.

Some 2.4 million people remain in desperate need of food, shelter and medicine in the wake of the storm.

About five million people are eligible to cast ballots on Saturday, but their votes will have no effect on the outcome, after the military announced a 92.4 percent in the first round held on May 10 in regions spared by the storm.

In Yangon, voters have complained of intimidation, saying that military officers forced them to cast advance ballots, and to tick their papers while officials watched.