Burma and the blog

Just after I finished my previous post about the value or otherwise of blogging in politics, I saw this fascinating story from the BBC on the vital role bloggers are playing in letting the world know about the huge protests in Burma against the country’s military dictatorship.

Burma’s bloggers are using the internet to beat censorship, and tell the world what is happening under the military junta’s veil of secrecy.

I’ve written before about this crucial role that blogging and the internet in general can play. It’s no surprise that dictatorships try every way possible to control and suppress the internet. Getting information to the outside world about oppression and brutality is a pivotal way to bring pressure to bear on thugs and despots. It is fair to say that the pressure on Indonesia about their brutality in East Timor would not have been nearly as powerful had it not been for the film footage available of the Dili massacre (which was smuggled out at great personal risk to some people). The Chinese government is notorious for their ‘great firewall of China’, and even Fiji tried to shut down websites after the coup earlier this year.
The Burmese regime is probably the worst human rights abuser between here and China, and the Australian government has been spectacularly lame, even by their ‘standards’, in putting any sort public or diplomatic pressure on them. Even other ASEAN countries, who are obsessive about staying out of each other’s internal affairs, have done more to bring pressure. The military regime has managed to hang on for a very long time, and one can only hope that this latest very brave display of defiance and demands for freedom by many thousands of Burmese finally and quickly bears fruit.
(link to BBC story found through this comment)

UPDATES: It looks like things are getting nastier very quickly in Burma. Click here to sign a global petition aimed at pressuring the international community (particularly China) to take real action to stop the bloodshed and oppression.

The link to the main blog referred to in the BBC story – Ho Htike – is here.

Some people are organising a ‘wear a red shirt for Burma’ solidarity action for tomorrow (Friday). For those on Facebook, here’s a link.

Updates at The Guardian.

Some insights from Tim Dunlop at Blogocracy.

(3/10) – An excellent piece by George Monbiot in The Guardian.

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  1. I’m so excited and hopeful that the non-violent protests can succeed this time around. And apprehensive too that they will not.

    Sadly, Howard’s recalcitrance on this issue should be no surprise, after all he was also against sanctions imposed on Apartheid South Africa.

  2. I posted her address so my readers could send Daw Aung Suu Kyi postcards on her birthday this year (and I did it last year too).
    Just so the Burma military murderers would know she is not forgotten.

    In the UK a blog has been shut down for criticising one of the many Russian zillionaire crims there (links at my blog).
    This censorship is not just that ‘other’ world. it’s us too.

  3. Senator, when you say the international community should take ‘real action’ do you mean, er, a military invasion to topple the regime? How many examples of foreign intervention stuff-ups like Iraq do we have to have before people stop advocating it?

  4. No, I wasn’t thining of that Shrike. I was thinking more of serious pressure on China to withdraw their economic and political support from Burma, which I think would cause the regime to quickly collapse or at the least make major concessions. I know the UN isn’t ideal for this because of the flawed structure of the Security Council/China’s veto, etc, but what if a big chunk of the global community said ‘pull your finger out or forget about your Olympics’?

  5. I understand that Senator, but I don’t know if Chinese intervention would make it any better. I worry that all of this is less concerned about a regime that has been in power for over forty years but just another way of putting pressure China to toe the line by the US and Europe. I think examples of such foreign intervention by any major power that has actually done good for the people themselves is not encouraging.

  6. I’m sure there can be other geopolitical agendas that would come into play, Shrike – I’m not sure in this case that should be sufficient not to explore such a path.

    Any other suggestions for effective action more than welcomed though.

  7. I agree that this is the worst side of a government. To fire on their own people,,,,..I have started a site to collect all blogs and sites concerning this very serious and abusive behavior in burma. Please check it out.
    Thank you
    peace to all


  8. 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!“.


  9. My heart goes out to the people of Burma, and of course I support all peoples’ right to plan and conduct their own affairs. What I can’t stand is the US, Britain and Australian governments’ gross hypocrisy. You either believe in democracy and self determination or you don’t. They invaded a sovereign country (Iraq) with so-called “evidence” that they knew was a lie. There’s evidence to prove they lied, as did Howard and company. Over a million people have been killed. 7000 people in the west of Iraq and now more in the south have been affected by cholera. 4000 are displaced. Those responsible, at best, deny the stats of the dead, but don’t even bother keeping count anyway. “We don’t do body counts” one famous US general said. He should have added, “we don’t do the Geneva Conventions either”.

    The US has been involved in the invasion or interference of at least 46 countries since the end of WW 2.Hugo Chavez has made world history by being elected 10 times, democractically, with the latest resulting in a 65% majority. The US refers to him as a dictator or tyrant, because he insists on the profits via oil going to the people, over 80% indigenous and impoverished. The people of Burma are brave, the people of Venezuela are insulted and abused. Many CIA dollars are going into the country at this minute, to create another Chile, El Salvador, Guatemala ?.

    I’m sick of the US with our support, killing, maiming and stealing from impoverished countries, enabling wealthy companies to steal both the resources and their wealth. They use killing as a normal means of doing business. I’m sickened to my gut by the total horror, hypocrisy, death and misery they cause, while the Howard government remains silent or agrees or joins in the slaughter, as does the UK! Remember Indonesia, East Timor, Iraq and probably soon, Iran! The media just repeats what line the government takes. No serious challenge, no research. Just acquiesence in “our national interest?”
    Lest we (never) forget.

  10. I have heared that there are a growing number of Burmese who are determined to continue the fight no matter what. They are organising themselves into small local groups using anonymous names. They have a secret plan to take out the army by putting various kinds of slow poison into the food and drink that is delivered to the military all over the country. Does anyone think such a thing could really work?

  11. I know it’s not generally considered correct for lefties to support America, but I’m going out on limb to disagree with Naomi.

    I don’t deny for a second that US foreign policy has often been self-interested, but I would argue that there have been situations when it hasn’t. And in instances when we want military intervention, it is almost always the US that we call.

    Kosovo wasn’t exactly in their interests, yet many the world demanded their participation. Equally, they went into Somalia to help restore some semblance of order.

    I would love to see some consistency and humanity in US foreign policy, but I would argue it is not all bad.

    So should the US, Australia and other countries intervene to ensure innocent people aren’t killed and democracy restored? Don’t know, but I would love to hear some other opinions.

  12. “muzzmonster”

    The US has either interfered with, or invaded at least 46 countries since the end of WW2. I recall a US president telling us, that we could not depend on them coming to our aid if we are threatened. Tell me what they were doing in Guatemala, Chile, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Colombia, Iraq (twice)plus all the rest. They were not our saviours in the second world war, our PM was. He insisted on our troops coming back to save us. The US intended to invade both Afghanistan and Iraq before 9/11 happened.
    go to http://www.alternet.org/story/63632

    “when we want military intervention, it is almost always the US that we call”.Who and when?
    What about 1 million dead, and 4 million displaced in Iraq?(not 4000 as I mistakenly put in 1st blog). That’s a hell of a lot of misery. Half the population is under 15 years. How many people from Chile and El Salvador do you know? The involvement in Africa now just happens to coincide with OIL reserves. They pollute and poison the water, air and environment in impoverished countries and leave after they’ve taken what they want. Why are they building a $800 million embassy in Iraq? Why was the Ministry of Oil protected from early April 2003, while others were demolished? How many innocent lives have they taken, destroyed, maimed and abused since this Bush Administration? If Afghanistan wasn’t near the Caspean Sea where there’s oil and gas( a perfect place for a pipeline)do you think they’d still be interested in the people? The Taliban offered to hand over Osam bin Laden, the US wasn’t interested. Why? What about the 32 members of the Administration from oil companies, 8 of them very involved in the oil industry prior to 2001? Coincidence?

    Iraq is being bullied to pass legislation that will give US and Britain the major ‘say’ over the oil for 30 years. Billions will be stolen from the people of Iraq, and we’re helping them? It disgusts, angers and sickens me!

  13. I don’t disagree that the US has committed a whole rash of reprehensible things, Naomi. I confemn them for Vietnam and other south east Asian countries, for false reasons for invading Iraq, for pretty much all of Latin America. (Though I understand that while they ideologically supported Pinochet, they had no actual role in the overthrow of Allende in 1973)

    But I also think the US has done some good things and it was Europe that wanted them involved in Kosovo, Somalia and other places. Why? Because they’ve got the biggest army and are ostensibly goodies.

    I mean, how many other nations in the world would you rather rule the waves? China? Iran? Honestly, the world is full of venal and disappointing nations.

  14. It’s quite a shame for the USA, please check where all the Burmese junta money goes.

    Refer to my source one these Junta member money is bieng launder thru a multinational Company based in Hong Kong.

    Despite of US embargo, many junta member has millions of USD thru asian banks. Just look thru the missing burmese, some are bieng the object of illegal human organ business. ” kidney, eyes etc..”

    Just inquire with some business tycoon in Malaysia and how they hav e funded their business……………


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