Saturday, September 29, 2007

It'll Always Be Burma To Me

Welcome to Myanmar, otherwise known as Burma. Thousands of monks have hit the streets to protest increased energy prices and the repressive policies of the military junta in general. According to this article, monks began taking visible political action on August 30th. Widespread media coverage did not begin, however, until this week, as the military sought to crack down on the peaceful protests.

Could these protests succeed where those that occurred in 1988 failed?

I hope so, but it won't be easy. The military junta has all the guns and has shown a willingness to use them, even against a member of the Japanese media. The following video is, I'm sorry to say, graphic.

As protests widened over the course of the last month, the government decided this week to repress the monks and their supports, issuing a harrowing warning on Monday. The protesters continued to brave the streets, and the military delivered on its promise, firing into crowds and beating monks mercilessly.

Just like in 1988, the government does not allow media any access to the country.

Yet, unlike 1988, the people can be their own media.

Citizens have been using proxy servers to bypass government control of the Internet to send out firsthand accounts, photos, and videos to friends, families, and international media sources. Could this be different? Bloggers are making a tangible difference in the conflict. Will the military junta be forced to negotiate with protesters as international pressure mounts?

"Myanmar Blocks Internet, Cuts Off Phones"
"Monks Cut Off, and Burmese Clashes Ebb"
Hats off to the United Nations for "urging calm."

Damn it.

Yet, people find a way. We have the technology. One blogger, Ko Htike, based out of London, has established his page as a forum to gather reports out of Myanmar and has been a big source of information for CNN and other international outlets. He reports this morning that the Internet is actually still on-and-off, allowing him to post a graphic photograph of the remains of a young student's mind.

The Facebook is being utilized to mobilize public support. The group "support the Monks' protest in Burma" currently boasts close to 160,000 members and is rising steadily. There are up to the minute updates and solidarity protests planned across the globe. You may need to be a member of Facebook to see the group page, I urge you to do so just to see the tactics of new youth protest in action.

Another report has made use of satellite technology to monitor atrocities of the Myanmar govt.

And protests continue as we speak in Myanmar, in spite of the risks.

If this were still 1988, these protests might be over already. Yet, as I have alluded to in discussing the Jena 6 protest, protest tactics are changing. People no longer need to rely solely upon the sympathetic coverage of mainstream news sources. Activists can spread their own news, mobilizing tens of thousands beneath the radar of governments and media conglomerates. Certainly, it is too early to predict the direction of these protests. The deck is stacked against the monks and the ordinary citizens of Myanmar. Each time they upload a photograph, or try to send out a video, or gather in groups, they're risking their lives. However, use of the Internet has permitted protesters to take the fight in directions that the military junta of Myanmar has been unable to control. Bloggers in the United States can do their part by pressing this issue, keeping it in the news beyond the 24 hour attention span of our beloved mainstream media.

Not to go out on a limb, but I'm with the monks, not with the military junta.


Charlotte said...

Thanks for the links. I've been resisting joining Facebook because being in so many internet thingies stresses me out. (What a frickin' joke, huh, in this context.) I think I need to join now. At least now I have the link to Ko Htike's blog....I hope you'll continue to post on this.

m.d. said...

My thoughts on the emerging role of internet in protest mobilization are along the lines of yours. New media, from pamphlets mass-printed by printing presses way back when to video sent instantly by internet today, have always been the catalysts of change.

Right now, the internet is the friend of the protestor and the enemy of the oppressor - one wants truth to be known, the other wants only part or none of the truth to be known. I expect the oppressor to catch on fast, though.

The test of its effectiveness comes after the protest, as I said in the Jena 6 post. Protest is like the introduction to change.

charlotte said...

Check out this site, Democratic Voice of Burma, written by Burmese ex-pats.

Free Burma! said...

Free Burma!
International Bloggers' Day for Burma on the 4th of October

International bloggers are preparing an action to support the peaceful revolution in Burma. We want to set a sign for freedom and show our sympathy for these people who are fighting their cruel regime without weapons. These Bloggers are planning to refrain from posting to their blogs on October 4 and just put up one Banner then, underlined with the words „Free Burma!“.

E said...

free burma -
what good does that do? shouldn't bloggers stay busy by continuing to call attention to the problem at hand?