Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Burma turns off the internet

Bloggers are a major part of the opposition to the ruling military in Burma. Initially they were targeted for arrest but that still left a stream of news leaving Burma coutesy of blogs. Now the regime has simply turned off the internet.

'While the veteran democracy activists, and then the Buddhist monks, marched in their tens of thousands against the military regime, it was the country's amateur bloggers and internet enthusiasts who brought the images to the outside world.

Armed with small digital cameras, they documented the spectacular growth of the demonstrations from crowds of a few hundred to as many as 100,000.

On weblogs they recorded in words and pictures the regime's bloody crackdown, in a city where only a handful of foreign journalists work undercover. With downloaded software, they dodged and weaved around the regime's increasingly desperate attempts to thwart their work.

Now the bloggers, too, have been crushed.

Having failed to stop the cyber-dissidents broadcasting to the world, the authorities have simply switched off the internet.'

I am pessimistic about the situation in Burma a country whose future I have followed since the late 1970s. A resource-rich, beautiful country with beautiful, cultured people who live in an authoritarian timewarp. The military will crush the current dissent whether it comprise monks or bloggers.

In the 1980s I taught quite a few Burmese students while based in Thailand. The common characteristic they all had was they did not want to return to Burma. At one point my colleagues and I counted that of 7 Burmese students we had taught all had sought refuge in the US. A tragic loss of able people for a desparately poor country that should be one of the wealthiest in Asia.

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