Myanmar blogger pushes 'people's voice'

2012-02-29 17:14

kalahari.com

  • Myanmar
    This volume gets under the surface to look at the underlying issues which Myanmar faces regardless... Now R748.00
    buy now
Yangon - Aside from an emotional reunion with family and friends, Myanmar blogger Nay Phone Latt knew exactly what he wanted to do after his release from prison: Get back online.

It was a bold move, given that his internet activities landed him a two-decade jail term back in 2008 under the former military regime.

"There are so many friends online who supported me via my blog," said the 32-year-old, a few weeks into his newfound freedom. "So what I wanted to do when I was released was to go online and post a new post."

He made his name through political commentary and poetry on his blog, which he set up to avoid strict press censorship and which soon became an important source of news on isolated Myanmar for the outside world.

He was among activists rounded up for their links to the "Saffron Revolution" monk-led protests against the junta in 2007, and believes he was punished for both his blogging and support for opponents of the generals.

Accusations

His sentence was later reduced to 12 years and cut short in January, when the new government released hundreds of political prisoners - one of a series of reforms sweeping the country.

"To frighten the other bloggers and other IT-related youth, they sentenced me to so many years," he said, over a cup of coffee in his hometown of Yangon, which is dotted with popular internet cafés.

While detained in his own country, Nay Phone Latt was fêted from abroad, winning the PEN/Barbara Goldsmith Freedom to Write Award in New York for showing the "strength of the creative spirit" in the face of repression.

Specific accusations against him included storing caricatures of the junta chief, found in his e-mail inbox, and giving out CDs of performances by a satirical entertainment troupe.

"I don't know what crime I have committed, I really don't know that," said Nay Phone Latt, who also owned and ran two cyber cafés before his arrest.

The authorities, he added, hated bloggers and "did not understand the internet and technology".

Progress

The years he spent in jail were a critical time for Myanmar, after almost half a century of draconian army rule.

In late 2010 the country held its first election in 20 years, widely criticised by the West as neither free nor fair, and early last year the junta dissolved itself and handed power to a new government.

It was dubbed as a transfer to civilian rule, yet Myanmar's parliament is dominated by the military and its allies and the new president, Thein Sein, was formerly a general and prime minister in the junta.

So few were expecting the impressive series of reforms that he has ushered in over the past year.

Along with the mass release of political prisoners such as Nay Phone Latt, the regime has made progress toward peace with ethnic minority rebels, and the opposition party of Aung San Suu Kyi has been allowed back into the mainstream.

"I don't think that they will turn back again," said the blogger.

"They cannot change their uniform to the military so easily, so they want to go on, but this progress can slow and stop. This all depends on all of the people in our country".

Momentum


A former member of Aung San Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy, the blogger is glad to see the party's figurehead, detained herself for much of the past 23 years, running for office in by-elections in April.

"We need to amend so many nonsense laws and we also need to amend the constitution, so Daw Aung San Suu Kyi intends to do that," he said, using a term of respect to refer to the Nobel laureate.

Nay Phone Latt is especially keen to see reform of Myanmar's legislation on internet use, the Electronic Act, which has been described by media watchdog Reporters Without Borders as "one of the most liberticidal laws in the world".

He has no plans to become a politician himself, but neither does he intend to keep quiet as he tastes his new freedom, despite his ordeal behind bars.

His plans include furthering IT education in rural Myanmar, where many are still without access to the internet, and publishing a book of "so many articles, letters and short stories and poems I have written in the prison".

The recent political changes are being felt online. Internet connections are often still painfully slow, but websites of the opposition and exiled media groups that the government once tried to block are now freely available.

"There's no more ban on the political websites," said Ye Htut, director general of Myanmar's Ministry of Information.

For Myanmar's reform to keep momentum, citizens must keep on speaking out - "now they are listening to the people's voice", said Nay Phone Latt.

"They have got to give freedom of expression, so we need not be afraid of anything," he said. "We have to say loudly and we have to say freely and we have to say bravely".
Read more on:    myanmar  |  internet
NEXT ON NEWS24X
SHARE:

Read News24’s Comments Policy

24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
0 comments
Add your comment
Comment 0 characters remaining
 

Inside News24

 
/Movies
Traffic & Train Alerts
Traffic
Kuils River 17:58 PM
Road name: Polkadraai Road Eastbound

ROADWORKS between the R102 Van Riebeeck Road and the R310 Baden Powell Drive exit - expect delays

Montague Gardens 12:06 PM
Road name: Montague Drive

ROADWORKS - lane closures both directions for BRT lane construction - DELAYS towards Bosmansdam Road

Jobs in Cape Town [change area]

Property [change area]

Travel - Look, Book, Go!

Magical Massinga

Spend 5 nights at the gorgeous Massinga Beach Lodge in Mozambique and only pay for 4 from R13 220 per person sharing. Includes return flights, accommodation, transfers and romantic turndown. Book now!

Kalahari.com - shop online today

Up to 60% off - clearance sale!

Save up to 60% on appliances, books, electronics, toys, movies and more. Offer valid while stocks last. Shop now!

Deal of the Week!

Get bestselling John Green novels now just R99 each! Hurry and get yours while stocks last. Shop here.

Mind blowing deals on beauty & fragrances

Save up to 30% off beauty and fragrances. Offer valid while stocks last. Shop now!

Up to 50% off hair care products!

Save up to 50% on professional hair care products at kalahari.com. Offer valid while stocks last. Shop now!

30% off academic books

Score a mind blowing 30% off academic books! Offer valid while stocks last. Shop now!

OLX Free Classifieds [change area]

Samsung Galaxy s4

Mobile, Cell Phones in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 24

Best bargain in big bay

Real Estate, Houses - Apartments for Sale in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

VW Golf 6, 1.6 Trendline (Excellent condition)

Vehicles, Cars in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

Horoscopes
Jan 21 - Feb 18
Jan 21 - Feb 18

You may be inspired to do things that expand your mind in a big way today. You have a need to explore and a need to please....read more

There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.
 
English
Afrikaans
isiZulu

Hello 

Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.


Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Settings

Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.








Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.