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October 04, 2007

Myanmar is Offline

Those of you who have been following the situation in Myanmar know that political unrest and protests have dominated this small nation in recent weeks. The military government has responded by cracking down on protestors, notably peaceful monks marching in the streets.

The most recent crackdown is directed at technology: the generals running Myanmar shut down the Internet. According to the New York Times:
"Until Friday television screens and newspapers abroad were flooded with scenes of tens of thousands of red-robed monks in the streets and of chaos and violence as the junta stamped out the biggest popular uprising there in two decades. But then the images, text messages and postings stopped, shut down by generals who belatedly grasped the power of the Internet to jeopardize their crackdown."

(For the whole article go to http://www.nytimes.com/2007/10/04/world/asia/04info.html)

This incident reminded me of the incredible role the internet plays in global communication. The internet can be very useful in fighting oppression, especially in isolated places like Myanmar, by informing the global community of a crisis. We see this theory in practice with internet games like "Save Darfur," which seeks to inform people of the genocide taking place in Sudan. Learning of a situation is the first step towards doing something about it.

Myanmar does not yet have a game. Its internet content was purely information about the current, tragic events its people are suffering. Without the ability to share this information, I am afraid the situation for the people in Myanmar can only get worse. My hope is that enough images and postings are already online, so that the global community will not forget the people of Myanmar.

Posted by leslieph at October 4, 2007 09:10 PM


Two months later, it seems that the military government's strategy in Myanmar was a success. After Myanmar went offline, it quickly lost its spot on the front page in U.S. newspapers. What little I have heard recently consists of the military treating the revolt like it never happened - see "Months After Protests, Myanmar Junta in Control" at http://www.nytimes.com/2007/12/08/world/asia/08myanmar.html?_r=1&oref=slogin.

This appears to prove how affectively the flow of ideas and/or news can be slowed when the internet is taken away.

Posted by: leslieph at December 8, 2007 06:33 PM

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