EVEN TO the uneducated, poor and disregarded, Burma’s constitutional referendum on Saturday was an absurdity.

On Burmese state television, Sunday morning’s news bulletin showed happy people casting their votes and then crossed to an aerobics program.

This is the ruling generals’ reality, their message to the world.

But in real life, perhaps more than 100,000 people are dead, the victims of a devastating storm and the latest catastrophe to impose itself on this strategically-critical South East Asian nation.

And its ruling military regime is doing nothing to help the people.

The dead are being cast aside by the truckloads in today’s Burma.

But as CNN footage shows bodies being thrown into rivers it is a simple fact the dead may have been registered and voted “yes” to a new constitution that will give the military overwhelming power, with 25 per cent of lawmakers’ seats reserved for the armed forces.

And who can prove how the dead voted?

Such is the farce of Saturday’s vote that Lian Sakhong, the general secretary of the Ethnic Nationalities Council, simply shakes his head in distress.

“What do you think of the referendum?” he asked quietly.

‘‘It’s a joke, you know the story, go write it,” he said over coffee in the Thai frontier town of Mae Sot.

His frustrated lament was indicative of how the ethnic minorities, who populate the vast majority of Burma, view the recalcitrant attitude of the ruling military junta.

Saturday’s constitutional referendum will establish a new regime, the latest embodiment of a military junta that has controlled Burma since 1962.

With a 75 per cent majority required to enable any law and 25 per cent of the seats reserved for the military, it only takes one stooge member of parliament to disable a country of more than 40 million people.

Add to this a typhoon that has reshaped the mouths of the Irrawaddy River that spill from headwaters on the Tibetan plateau and you have a recipe for humanitarian disaster.

Daniel Pedersen in Mae Sot, Thailand

But in real life, perhaps more than 100,000 people are dead, the victims of a devastating storm and the latest catastrophe to impose itself on this strategically-critical South East Asian nation. And its ruling military regime is doing nothing to help the people. The dead are being cast aside by the truckloads in today’s Burma. But as CNN footage shows bodies being thrown into rivers it is a simple fact the dead may have been registered and voted “yes” to a new constitution that will give the military overwhelming power, with 25 per cent of lawmakers’ seats reserved for the armed forces. And who can prove how the dead voted?