Burma’s military leaders locked down monasteries, arrested dissidents and set up barricades across Rangoon yesterday in an attempt to suffocate the waves of street demonstrations calling for an end to their rule.They also tried to cut off ordinary people’s communication with the outside world, heightening fears that the crackdown that appears to have knocked the wind from the demonstrations could become more violent.
Yesterday [Friday], authorities shut Burma’s only internet server and blocked all text and picture messaging on mobiles, in an effort to stem the violent images leaving the country, including pictures of a Japanese photographer shot in front of the Sule Pagoda. Though foreign journalists are banned, the regime ordered soldiers to go door-to-door at some hotels looking for foreigners.
With mobiles and internet, protesters battle to keep world’s eyes on Burma
The last time Burmese soldiers fired on their own people there were few witnesses, and those who were there had no way of telling the story.Two decades and a technological revolution later, the protesters challenging the government are ready to risk their lives so the world can hear their story. Armed with mobile phone cameras, they have become the eyes of the “saffron revolution”.No foreign TV crews have been able to enter the country and networks such as the BBC and CNN have been forced to report from neighbouring Thailand. From the point of view of television, the situation is the same as it was in 1988, when the massacre of nearly 3,000 people went unreported by most TV news programmes.Today, the regime has calculated that it can again win the propaganda battle if it controls the traditional media. It is wrong. The military had forgotten about the internet and the mobile phone, two weapons with which the protesters have managed to grab the world’s attention.
Burmese Government Clamps Down on Internet
The White House is not buying that technical difficulties caused the internet shutdown in Myanmar today. “They don’t want the world to see what is going on there,” said Scott Stanzel, a spokesman.In other signs of a government campaign to extinguish media coverage, a witness told The Irrawaddy that soldiers were “singling out people with cameras” today. Also, a report from Irrawaddy says “trucks loaded with troops raided the offices of Burma’s main Internet service provider.”
Junta Restricts Protesters, Communications in Burma
Soldiers blockaded Buddhist shrines in Burma on Friday and authorities restricted phone and Internet access, as the military leadership appeared at least temporarily to repress the democracy movement that has shaken the country.Exiled activists and news agencies with correspondents in Burma reported that hundreds of people had gathered near the Sule Pagoda, in the city of Rangoon, only to be dispersed by soldiers marshaled behind coils of concertina wire and rows of trucks. Otherwise, they said, the downtown area seemed to be sparsely populated as residents reeled from the violence of Thursday, when tens of thousands of angry protesters taunted security forces.
With the flow of information sharply curtailed and most foreign correspondents barred from the country, activist groups said satellite imagery could also play a role in determining what was happening. The American Association for the Advancement of Science, which released a report Friday on long-standing military campaigns against ethnic rebels in outlying areas, said satellites also are being deployed to collect images of troop movements in such centers of the current uprising as Rangoon and Mandalay.
The Internet has been a welcome gateway for political dissidents around the world, often letting activists stay a step ahead of the repressive regimes that would silence them. But in a country as repressive as Myanmar (formerly known as Burma), the government holds a trump card: shutting down the Internet altogether.
Even before the Myanmar government’s most recent dismantling of the country’s Internet access, a Web connection was hardly easy to come by. Less than one percent of individuals have home access, according to the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency’s World Factbook.Burmese who do subscribe to Internet service must reach it through a state-sponsored Intranet, which monitors e-mails, according to a study conducted by the Open Net Initiative. Cyber-cafes in Rangoon and Mandalay can only connect to a heavily edited version of the Web. Free e-mail sites, including Google’s Gmail, are inaccessible. And shop owners are required by law to capture frequent screenshots of sites citizens visit and to send those images to companies that review them on behalf of the government.
Internet Blackout in Myanmar Stalls Reports, Oversight
The loss of Internet access in Myanmar has slowed the tide of photos and videos shared with the rest of the world but people outside of the troubled country continue to use new media sites and other technologies to protest military activity in the Southeast Asia country.Reporters without Borders and the Burma Media Association reported that the government cut off all Internet access in the country on Friday morning and they said that all Internet cafes in the country also have been closed. The Web site of the Myanmar Post & Telecommunications, the government-run telecommunications provider, appears to be down.
Myanmar’s Descent, Seen From 150 Miles Up
Satellite photographs of rural Myanmar released yesterday show what seems to be evidence of human rights abuses gathered from space: villages wiped out, populations relocated and military encampments rising.The images, of events long reported, were released by the Science and Human Rights Program of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, in coordination with the U.S. Campaign for Burma, a group working to end such abuses and bring democracy to the country known as Myanmar.
Mr. Aung Din said that because the junta had apparently cut Internet and telephone ties with the outside world to prevent pictures of the violence from getting out, “we’re trying to monitor them via satellite.”
Even in Burma’s deep south, fear is everywhere by Peter Popham in Kaw Thaung, Burma
Burma is more closely in contact with people all over the world than at any time in its history. But the tragedy is that the proximity doesn’t make a bit of difference. Burma’s rulers remain as impervious to change and reform as they were 40 years ago, during the hermit years of the “Burmese Road to Socialism”.At this seedy little port town in the far south of the country the teenage touts on the quayside give you their thoughts about Beckham and offer to sell you viagra before you’ve reached dry land. At a shabby open-air coffee shop by the port there are two large modern televisions going, one tuned to a Japanese samurai soap, the other to CNN. About half the American channels’ news coverage yesterday was devoted to the uprising in Burma, with blogged images of clashes on the streets, lorries full of troops, trashed monasteries. The customers in the coffee shop watched round-eyed and in silence.
‘The young people got up and ran, but the police just fired into their backs…’
The full picture of the violence unleashed by the Burmese regime against unarmed protesters in Rangoon on Thursday is still emerging. A 23-year-old Burmese journalist caught up in a protest in the Thanwe township of the capital gave this harrowing account of her experience to The Independent yesterday morning. Fearing for her safety, she has requested anonymity. She is now in hiding.
The Monks Are Cut Off, and Burmese Clashes Ebb
Myanmar’s armed forces appeared on Friday to have sealed tens of thousands of protesting monks inside their monasteries, but they continued to attack bands of demonstrators who challenged them in the main city, Yangon.Witnesses and diplomats reached by telephone inside the country said troops were confronting and attacking smaller groups of civilians around Yangon, chasing them through narrow streets and sometimes firing at protesters and arresting them.
‘Loving kindness’ will beat the generals 2554123
As the events unfolded this week in Rangoon, my mind wandered back to the bedtime stories my great-grandmother told me of a bloody encounter in the 1930s in my native Mandalay. It was between the world-conquering power of the British Raj and the soft power of the world-renouncers, the peaceful and unarmed Buddhist monks and nuns, 17 of whom were mown down. How gallantly they had stood up to the British Raj on behalf of Burma’s poor, she said.