State television in Burma says the country's new constitution is now in force, following approval in a national referendum that was completed last week in the country's cyclone disaster zone.

Media reports Thursday say Burma's military ruler, General Than Shwe, signed the charter and it took effect immediately.

The government says approval of the constitution will lead to general elections in 2010. Opposition and human rights groups say it will only strengthen the military's control.

Burma's military government said voters approved the draft constitution by an overwhelming 92 percent "yes" vote. Most of the country voted on May 10, just a week after winds, waves and rain from Cyclone Nargis swamped most of southern Burma and killed tens of thousands of people. In the worst-affected areas, where many storm victims are still living in temporary shelters, the referendum was delayed for two weeks until May 24.

Last week, the European Parliament decried what it called the Burmese leaders' "distorted priorities," for staging a referendum in many areas where storm survivors had not received any relief supplies.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP and AP.