Blogging Burma

Thoughts of a Burmese blogger before the 2010 elections


Burmese language blogs started to boom in 2007. During the September uprising [Saffron revolution] a lot of foreign journalists met us and took an interest in us, which raised our profile. After the uprising, the government started cracking down on blogs and banned blog sites. It was funny, because since the crackdown there are even more bloggers.

Most people started using their own domain names. We can easily get around [the government’s] controls and blocks. We use anonymity software and proxy servers outside the country. That’s natural for us.

There are computer experts hired by the military regime to spy on us, but I don’t think they cooperate 100 percent. We all have an IT background and we just learn by ourselves.We are thinking about posting about the [2010] election as a kind of civil education. The regime is going to keep power after the election – we all know that – but boycotting the election will not help. We must grab any opportunity to bring change.

Our role as bloggers or CJs [citizen journalists] will be to individually monitor the election. Before the election, we want to post about the activities of political parties and the election commission. On election day, we plan to phone in from the polling stations and use SMS and Twitter to get information out, and to say whether the voting is free. We see this as our responsibility.

I don’t think they will shut down our internet access completely, but probably they will make it slow, with a low bandwidth so we can’t send big files as attachments.

Our politicians do not understand the impact of new media, only the old fashioned print media. We don’t feel represented by anyone. There will be no revolution, but even a little change will be good for us. We don’t want to be politicians. We see ourselves as social activists. We believe in the power of new media to make a difference in our country.

We know about the dangers. You know about [the blogger] Nyan Phone Latt. He was arrested, now he's in Hpa’an prison. But he can write letters and his family can visit him. He’s doing alright. He was one of Time magazine’s top 100 people this year.

My blog is called "Me and My Stuff" – it’s mostly a lifestyle blog. I’m not sure how many readers I have, but it’s hundreds. Many people know it’s mine, so usually I don’t write things that are sensitive or controversial.

Of course, the problem here is that people need to be on the internet to read our blogs. Less than ten percent of the population have access to the internet. We hold seminars to teach people about blogging. 600 people came to one of them. We get lots of interest.

Civilians protect monks as they demonstrate their opposition to Burma's military junta in September 2007

Aung spoke to Phoebe Kennedy, a freelance journalist living in Rangoon. A link to Aung's own blog is not possible, but here is her group’s blog