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February 24 2014

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January 31 2014

A Visual and Musical Journey Through Myanmar

Like a visual postcard, the short video A handful of Myanmar by Berta upe Tilmantaitė invites its viewers to marvel at the wonders of the Southeast Asian country. Reid Willis‘ music replaces the natural sounds of the place, as rhythm and tempo adapt to the flow of the rivers and the laughter of young monks.

January 11 2014

PHOTOS: How Pebble Mining is Destroying Villages in Myanmar

Several houses destroyed by muddy waste. Photo from the Facebook page of The Irrawaddy

Several houses destroyed by muddy waste. Photo from the Facebook page of The Irrawaddy

Dozens of homes were destroyed in the Nga Pu Taw Township of Myanmar due to muddy waste produced by pebble mining companies.

January 02 2014

10 Vintage Photos of Burma in 1897

Through its Flickr account, the British Library has opened to the public its various collections featuring historic photos, maps, and other illustrations of many countries around the world. We found two books published in 1897 which contained vintage travel photos of Burma (Myanmar). They provide an interesting glimpse of life in Burmese society during the late 19th century.

Below are five photos we selected from the book ‘Wanderings in Burma’ authored by George W Bird:

Alguada Lighthouse

Alguada Lighthouse

Sagaing Hills

Sagaing Hills

A steamer at Irrawaddy River

A steamer at Irrawaddy River

Cargo steamers

Cargo steamers

A pagoda in Rangoon

A pagoda in Rangoon

Alice Hart published the book ‘Picturesque Burma’ also in 1897. Below are some photos from this collection:

burma carriage

Taming a wild elephant

Taming a wild elephant

Net fishing

Net fishing

Bamboo houses

Bamboo houses

burma women

December 31 2013

Human Trafficking in Southeast Asia

The Asian Forum of Parliamentarians on Population and Development has published a policy briefer that tackled the extent of human trafficking in Southeast Asia.

Many Southeast Asian countries are at the bottom of a lot of the world's supply chains, including for food, garments, and technology. Yet few countries in the region have adequate laws for addressing corporate responsibility for human trafficking, including in their supply chains.

The primer also provides country-specific recommendations on how to best address the human trafficking issue in the region

December 30 2013

PHOTOS: Humans of Southeast Asia

Brandon Stanton’s Humans of New York Facebook page has inspired many photographers around the world to share photos and stories of ordinary people in the streets in their respective countries. Let us review similar initiatives in Southeast Asia.

The Humans of Brunei page was created on May 17, 2013. Below is a photo of Brunei students

Photo from Humans of Brunei Facebook page

Photo from Humans of Brunei Facebook page

Meanwhile, the Humans of Indonesia page was created on August 16, 2013. Below is a photo of Indonesians in the Harau valley waterfalls in the Bukittinggi area:

“It was a very special experience … these pristine waterfalls were turned into some kind of public bathing area. So if I would zoom out you would see kids riding inflatable ducks, souvenirs, people selling noodles & bunch of other activities …” Photo from Humans of Indonesia Facebook page

“Those young coconuts look fresh?” “Oh, please take one if you like” “Thank you so much. Why don’t you just drop them down? Seems heavy to carry like that” “Don’t you see that few kids play under these trees? I am worry these coconuts would hit them.” Photo from Humans of Indonesia Facebook page

“Those young coconuts look fresh?”
“Oh, please take one if you like”
“Thank you so much. Why don’t you just drop them down? Seems heavy to carry like that”
“Don’t you see that few kids play under these trees? I am worry these coconuts would hit them.” Photo from Humans of Indonesia Facebook page

There is also a Humans of Jakarta page. Jakarta is the capital of Indonesia

Photo from Humans of Jakarta Facebook page

Photo from Humans of Jakarta Facebook page

Check the Humans of Bali page. Bali is a popular island in Indonesia.

In Malaysia, Avinash explains the idea of creating the Humans of Malaysia page:

…firstly its because I want those people know that there are people out there who care, for their opinions, for their stories, for their time, for their attention, for their thinking, for their views on life, on every issue, on everything, and that these people make Malaysia home. Second, i like to listen. and ask questions of course. And thirdly, well because I was at a point of my life where i really just needed to talk to someone, i needed someone to not help, but to just listen, no one was there for me then. I always have this thing in my mind, thinking that i might come across someone today who really just need someone who would listen. Thats why I do this

“What scares you the most?”
“Being poor. Having no money. Everything is about money nowadays. Supporting my family, food, transport, bills. Its everywhere.” Photo from Humans of Malaysia Facebook page

There is a separate page for the Humans of Kuala Lumpur. Kuala Lumpur is Malaysia’s capital.

“Abang (brotherly term for a guy) Hafiz washes and arranges the fish and vegetables at one of the agricultural grocery stores in KL. It is late at night and people are still coming in.” Photo from Facebook page Humans of Kuala Lumpur

The Humans of Thailand page has not been updated regularly but the Humans of Bangkok page seems active. Bangkok is the capital of Thailand. Zon explains the project:

The page is a small urban project that I've just started about the people and their everyday lives in Bangkok, which has become a much more hybrid-society than ever. Revealing lives of the city inhabitants would make us better aware that everyone is interconnected.

“My daily challenge is riding. I have to manage to ride through the gaps between big cars. And actually it's extremely dangerous. I've been a taxi rider for a year but honestly I don't know how long I could continue with this job, or either know what I want to do next with my life.” Photo from Humans of Bangkok Facebook page

Bangkok police. Photo from Humans of Bangkok Facebook page

Bangkok police. Photo from Humans of Bangkok Facebook page

As the political crisis deepens in Thailand, Bangkok residents are calling for a ‘peaceful Sunday’

“Political conflict in Thailand now. We hope for #peacefulsunday and that no violence will take place tomorrow.” Photo from Humans of Bangkok Facebook page

Check also the Humans of Chiang Mai page. Chiang Mai is located north of Thailand.

Photo from Humans of Chiang Mai Facebook page

“No texts, no calls, nothing. Cause I'm still thinking abt my Painting!” Photo from Humans of Chiang Mai Facebook page

In Vietnam, we’d like to feature the Humans of Saigon and Humans of Hanoi:

Photo from Humans of Saigon Facebook page

Photo from Humans of Saigon Facebook page

Photo from Humans of Hanoi Facebook page

Photo from Humans of Hanoi Facebook page

In Laos, there is a Humans of Vientiane page. Vientiane is the country’s capital.

“Local law enforcement in Luang Namtha enjoying a game of petangue.” Photo from Humans of Vientiane Facebook page

Below is a photo of Stacy from Singapore relaxing at Clarke Quay. Photo from the Humans of Singapore page:

“I've been sitting here because it's quite breezy. And you can watch the boats passing by too. They've been doing a tour of the entire river all the way till Marina Bay Sands, where they tell you about the history of these places and Singapore. It's quite interesting, you hear all sorts of things which you didn't know and it's always a bit of a surprise.” Photo from Humans of Singapore Facebook page

Visit Humans of the Philippines and Humans of Manila. Manila is the capital of the Philippines.

Children of Tondo in Manila. Tondo is a working class district. Photo from Humans of Manila Facebook page

Children of Tondo in Manila. Tondo is a working class district. Photo from Humans of Manila Facebook page

The People of Yangon page created by Chris James White was also inspired by the Humans of New York idea. Yangon is major city in Myanmar.

People of Yangon Facebook page

People of Yangon Facebook page

December 23 2013

After 44 Years, Southeast Asian Games Returns to Myanmar

Opening ceremonies of the 27th Southeast Asian games in Myanmar. Photo from official Facebook page of SEA Games

Opening ceremonies of the 27th Southeast Asian games in Myanmar. Photo from official Facebook page of SEA Games

After 44 years of long absence, South East Asian Games has once again returned to Myanmar. The last time Myanmar hosted the game was in 1969 in Yangon. The opening ceremony for the 27th SEA Games was held in the new capital city of Nay Pyi Taw on December 11 with the international media describing it as Myanmar's ravishing coming out party. Actually, the government has conducted an aggressive SEA games awareness promotion in the country many months before the event. To add a little bit of spice to what international and domestic media have reviewed, here are what netizens inside the country have been commenting throughout the games.

The opening ceremony was enthusiastically received and acclaimed by many people. Aye Chan Mon shared[my] an article dedicated to the opening ceremony of the SEA games.

The 27th SEA Games opening ceremony was celebrated on 11th December. I'm not saying this because I am a Myanmar. But I am very proud as a Myanmar citizen for holding the ceremony with such splendor. It has been many years that we have been afraid doing any events in the country. I would like to say that now we have seized our chance to reconstruct our dignity as Myanmar.

However, there are also people who tend to think negatively and are posting on Facebook to criticize. Everyone has the freedom to criticize. I could not do anything but feel sad to see the criticism by our own people.

Instead of blaming among ourselves, I turn away to discover what international media are saying about the ceremony. [...]

Then the article described the reviews written by the foreign media such as Malaysian Insider, Asia One, The Times of India, The Chronicle Journal and Bangkok Post. At the end, the author concluded by saying:

[...] Anyway if we look at the international reviews, there are more praise than criticism that we have performed beyond their expectations. Let's think of this successful celebration of this ceremony as opening a door to the international community or the beginning of our path away from the dictatorship or our official announcement to the world.

Official mascot of the 27th SEA Games

Official mascot of the 27th SEA Games

Demo Wai Yan wrote in his blog[my]:

[...] We can see that there are many different views on the 27th SEA Games which we can have in our own land after 44 years. But we need to distinguish between our views.

Our athletes are trying very hard to bring their best for the game that is being held in our own land. Today the competition of Myanmar athletes is not like making a propaganda film of the military regime but they are trying all they can for the country's image. In this moment we have to support the athletes whether they win or lose. [...]

Meanwhile, a minor riot broke out near the stadium in Yangon on December 16 when Myanmar lost to Indonesia 1-0 in football and could not make it to the finals. Naturally, there was a huge public disappointment on the performance of the Myanmar football team. Zaw Htet Han expressed[my] his thoughts about the riot:

There is vandalism even in the countries that are successfully practicing democracy. And there are also pyromaniacs. Forget about the immature question whether Myanmar deserves democracy. Every single country in the world deserves 100 percent democracy.

Myanmar's performance in the games reflected[my] the country's weaknesses, according to Khin Maung Nyo:

At the moment, I am seeing things differently. I see that the football match (especially the ones we lost) represent our weaknesses in economy and administration. It reflects the gap in our expectation and the reality, and our need for the development of human resources in different fields. This cannot be done within a day or a night. It takes time.

On the other hand, the women football team was cheered by everyone for their giving their best even though they only got a bronze medal instead of gold. Myanmar Political Jokes congratulated[my] the women's team:

Although they lost unfortunately after the penalty shoot out, it was obvious that they have given their best for the country. We are very proud of the Myanmar women football team. It was a very exciting match for the thousands of audience in the stadium, in front of the TV and living abroad. It feels almost crazy to watch both team playing intensely. Actually the Myanmar audience are not blind about winning or losing. Audience knows if players have really tried. And we are not afraid to face the failure.

People did not lose their mind for no apparent reason when Myanmar lost to Indonesia the other day. The audience who went to the match knew that the Myanmar men's football team had played not seriously enough to win the game. This is why 60 millions fans were angry.

Today even when the women team has lost the game, we are very proud of them. They have tried all their best until the end for the country.

Ye Htut also praised[my] the team:

Thank you, young heroines for making Myanmar audience happy.

Their coordination, team spirit and selflessness are the examples that not only the footballers but also all of us should take.

After the closing ceremony, he also highlighted[my] the victories of ethnic athletes:

[...] 180 of the medals were obtained by the ethnic athletes such as Kachin, Kayar, Chin, Mon, Shan and Rakhine. When we said that we are going to have these games, people from both inside and outside the country have doubted if we would have the ability. They asked whether Myanmar athletes would be able to do that.

Now, together with all the ethnic people in the country, we have proven that they are wrong.

With this kind of spirit, let us journey to the future country.

October 02 2013

PHOTOS: Life Inside Myanmar

Myanmar college graduates leaving a beauty salon

College graduates leaving a beauty salon. Meiktila, 2013

Award-winning photographer Geoffrey Hiller first visited Myanmar in 1987; and he was ‘haunted’ by what he saw in the country:

After a frenetic trip, it wasn’t so much the monks and pagodas that haunted me, but the faces of the Burmese, painted in white, often smiling. I wanted to find out more about who they really were, plagued by a corrupt government and international sanctions.

He has since then returned to Myanmar several times and he witnessed the changes that have taken place in the country in recent years:

I returned yet again in 2013. My camera focused on capturing daily life, from the cramped streets of the colonial capital of Yangon, to dusty markets in Mandalay, to Muslims in Meikhtila, and river life in Pathein.

The face of Yangon has already changed, with new building construction and imported cars.

He plans to publish a book through a Kickstarter project that would include his photographs documenting life inside Myanmar from 1987 through the recent historic transition. The book, Burma in Transition, would also feature photos of Meiktila which Hiller visited before riots erupted in the town:

After my experience in this peaceful town, the news reports about the fighting and killing and burning of homes is unbelievable to me. I had talked with dozens of residents of Meiktila, both Buddhists and Muslims, and I never would have guessed such violence would erupt

Pledge to the book project can be made through Kickstarter until October 9.

Dalah, 2011

Dalah, 2011


Woman smoking cheroot, Mandalay, 1987

A building in Yangon, 2012

A building in Yangon, 2012

A young man holding a photograph of Opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi and her father, General Aung San. Yangon Ferry, 2012

A young man holding a photograph of Opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi and her father, General Aung San. Yangon Ferry, 2012

Women workers in Meiktila, 2012

Women workers in Meiktila, 2013

*All photos by Geoffrey Hiller

October 01 2013

What Singapore Can Learn from Myanmar

Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi meets Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong. Image from Facebook

Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi meets Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong. Image from Facebook

Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi visited Singapore where she attended a leadership summit aside from meeting her compatriots in the prosperous city state. During a press forum, Suu Kyi praised Singapore’s economic success but she also warned against the impact of materialism:

…what is work all about? What are human beings for? What are human lives about?

So I think perhaps Singapore could learn from us, a more relaxed way of life, perhaps warmer and closer relationships. I want to learn a lot from the standards that Singapore has been able to achieve but I wonder whether we want something more for our country.

Bertha Henson reacts:

We should do some furious thinking and soul searching.

Are we just a money-grubbing nation, efficiently churning out digits for the future workplace? Are we all about the Central Business District skyline? Is that really how other people see us? As calculative individuals who do not put much stock in human relationships?

Wonderpeace agrees with Suu Kyi:

Ms Aung acknowledged that material achievement is necessary to a certain extent to enable us to be free from want. However, there are many intangible things which material achievement could not provide – love, loyalty and spirituality…so many things that helped us survive that had little to do with material achievement. She summed up that S'pore could learn from Myanmar a more relaxed way of life, warmer and closer family relationships.

Xuyun reminds Singapore leaders to go beyond the GDP in measuring quality of life:

Aung San Suu Kyi simply pricked the bubble of our materialistic minds, exposing our emptiness beyond that magnificent façade which we built our self-esteem on and from which defines our success.

(GDP) should not be pursued to the extent of reducing quality of life for the majority of the people in the process. And GDP alone does not define the spirit and the soul of a nation.

I may not guess what exactly Aung San Suu Kyi wants for her country. But it should be closer to the heart and further from the pockets.

On Twitter, @OccupySG echoed the message of Suu Kyi:

September 16 2013

Dissecting Myanmar's Internet Connection Woes

Jefry Tupas analyzed some of the issues that affect Myanmar's Internet sector. He cited the high costs of acquiring telephone handsets, SIM cards, and Internet connection in the country. He also wrote about the social and economic impact of the slow Internet speed which is believed to be controlled by the government. There is an easing of media regulation but the lingering effect of censorship is still felt and indirectly enforced.

August 12 2013

Remembering the 1988 Student Revolt in Myanmar

Aung Zaw, the founding editor in chief of the Irrawaddy magazine, recalls the historic 1988 student uprising in Myanmar:

As a student at that time, I can clearly remember the exhilaration of knowing that the entire nation was behind us, that we could not possibly lose.

He issues this challenge to Myanmar citizens:

Only by continuing to resist the forces of ignorance and brutality will we be able to win the war on students, and on the minds of all Myanmar citizens.

July 13 2013

Interview with Young Burmese Glue Sniffers

Inhalant abuse through the use of cheap glue is a worsening problem among poor children in Myanmar. Yin Yin Hnoung, a medical student from the University of Medicine in Mandalay, interviewed some of these children and analysed[my] the causes and impact of this particular drug abuse.

She starts by describing how she saw some children inhaling glue at Mahar Myat Mu Ni pagoda, a famous tourist spot in Mandalay:

A group of children was playing at a shady spot at Maha Muni Pagoda, Mandalay. (They are) around 5 to 15 years old. [...] Their daily job is to beg from pilgrims and visitors, to receive whatever food given and to collect used plastic containers. [...] If (we) checked the group of children running here and there, (we) would find some children sleeping or napping. It was a can with “TV” brand known as “TV Glue”. They were napping while inhaling (glue from) that container. There are around 100 children who are using that glue can that smells strongly like petrol as a drug and they are staying around Maha Muni Pagoda.

She approached some of the kids and conducted a friendly interview. A 14-year old boy hugging his 4-year old brother narrated his family background:

A glue can used to sniff by children. Photo from Yin Yin Hnoung's Facebook

Some of the poor children in Myanmar use this can of glue for inhalant abuse. Photo from Yin Yin Hnoung's Facebook

It's about three years I have been here, sister. I'm 14. I went to school till Grade 5. My dad already died. My mom just gave birth to a baby like 10 days ago. My stepfather is a carpenter at Tampawati [Author's Note: A township name in Mandalay city]. He doesn't feed us so we both have to go out and beg.

He then continued with his reasons for sniffing glue:

We have a debt of 30,000 kyats (37 US Dollars) which we borrowed when my mom gave birth. As we don't have enough (to give back) yet, I'm inhaling glue to forget about it. We earn around 1,000 to 1,500 kyats (1.25 to 1.8 US Dollars). A can of glue costs 400 kyats (0.5 US Dollars) We can buy it at hardware stores outside the pagoda. A can lasts about a week. It's not because I want to inhale, sister. But if I bought one can, I can stay without eating anything for a whole day. All my frustrations are gone, too. I don't even feel painful if someone punched me during a fight. I'm feeling well when I am inhaling it. That's why I started using it.

The kid she interviewed mentioned about teenage boys committing crimes after sniffing glue:

Such guys usually break into betel nut stalls at night and sell whatever they could take. They aren't hesitant to fight (against others), too. [...] Sometimes, they come and rob my glue can.

A 15-year old boy also narrated his story:

I have been to Gaw Mashin school (World Vision in their usage). I have to study there. I have meals to eat. But I'm not happy. How can I be happy? As there is no glue, I can't live there. That's why I ran away.

She also talked to a young lady living near the area:

I usually reprimand those children as if they were my own children or siblings. They don't like me as I always keep those glue cans from them and throw away.[...] I live with my husband and a child. [...] Even my husband used to sniff glue but I forced him to quit. My son is now two years old. As he sniffed glue while carrying our son, the baby felt congested in his chest. He quit it in order not to harm our son.

The young mother believes that it was a trash collector at Mandalay railway station who taught the children how to sniff glue. Young girls are also seen sniffing glue in the area. Pagoda security officers usually cane children caught sniffing glue.

Yin Yin Hnoung concluded her piece by mentioning what needs to be done to help those children. She wrote:

Due to poverty, children have to beg in order to earn for their families when they should be going to school instead. They are malnourished due to insufficient meals. When they can't earn enough money (to live), they sniffed glue because they are frustrated. Their income is spent on sniffing glue. Then, they beg again. The money given by kind visitors is spent on glue. If they are caned for sniffing (glue), they sniff glue again to forget the pain. They are then addicted to sniffing glue in such cycle.

She urged authorities to look into this issue as well:

It makes a historical place like Mahamuni Pagoda that can attract many tourists ugly with hundreds of children sniffing glue. Future human resource will be reduced. [...] That is why I write urging government authorities, Myanmar Maternal and Child Welfare Associations and NGOs to control sniffing glue effectively and to nurture those children again.

July 05 2013

First Burmese-language Social Networking Site

SQUAR is Myanmar’s first Burmese-language social networking site. The Irrawaddy interviews Rita Nguyen who is overwhelmed by the support of Myanmar netizens:

…even if Burmese were online, there was really no destination that belonged to them, built for and by them.

June 28 2013

Myanmar's Internet Freedom Forum

Faine Greenwood writes about the first Internet freedom forum in Myanmar and the challenges facing the IT community:

The event revealed optimism about opportunities for a newly connected society, even as bloggers and observers expressed uncertainty about growing tension between a desire for openness and a need for stability in the face of sectarian conflict.

June 17 2013

Burmese Blogger Calls for Religious Tolerance

dawn_1o9, a young Burmese blogger, expresses her disappointment over the reported cases of violence between Buddhists and Muslims in some parts of Myanmar:

I'm a Buddhist. I'm a Burmese living in Myanmar. But I just don't have anything against the Muslims living in Myanmar….what makes me a true Buddhist is not to boycott or hate Muslims – it is believing in peaceful co-existence and living my life to the fullest, helping people, no matter what their religions are.

June 14 2013

Anger Over Attacks Against Myanmar Migrants in Malaysia

The ethnic violence in Myanmar seems to be spreading in nearby countries.

Some Myanmar Buddhist migrants in Malaysia have been attacked in recent weeks which many people believe are related to the ongoing ethnic and religious tension in Myanmar. According to Eleven Media, 6 died and 12 were hospitalized with injuries during the violent attacks against Myanmar nationals in Malaysia from May 30 to June 8.

Myanmar's Embassy in Malaysia initially dismissed the news which angered many Burmese netizens. Ye Htut, Myanmar's Deputy Minister of Ministry of Information clarified[my] the report:

(We) read the news on the Internet about the clashes near a Myanmar monastery at KamPung and Selayang and that some Myanmar nationals died. (We) immediately asked the Myanmar Embassy in Malaysia about this issue at 5 pm and again at 8 pm via the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The Ambassador said the news was false. [...]

A Myanmar national put 11 red roses at Malaysia Embassy Yangon for Myanmar nationals killed at Malaysia.

A Myanmar national put 11 red roses in front of Malaysia's Embassy in Yangon in honor of Myanmar migrants killed in Malaysia. Photo – Ye Moe's Facebook.

Wai Lin Oo expressed[my] his frustration with the Embassy's response:

It's actually happening! If you want to approve Embassy's words, just prepare a flight in Myanmar to carry the dead bodies back.

Fang Ran asserted[my] a similar point.

People are suffering. They are just simply liars who don't even go outside the Embassy. And they charge us extreme taxes. I can't even mention in words how they often reprimand ( citizens who are seeking refuge in the Embassy). [...] When can we depend on Myanmar government? It's really discouraging. Where is respect for human rights of Myanmar nationals?[...]

Myo Set compared[my] how the governments of other countries are behaving when faced with a similar situation:

When a Japanese was killed in 2007 in Myanmar, a Japan Minister came at once. When Myanmar workers had issues with a Korean factory owner, the Korean Embassy suddenly became involved in the case. North Korea cleared away the books about Kim Jong Ill from book shops in Myanmar. What a shame! US came down to Myanmar once there were issues of Yettaw.

Our turn?

In Malaysia, the Ambassador's mouth got a stroke. Ministry of Information is crippled and Myanmar government is paralyzed.

We are Burmese, a community page of Myanmar citizens around the world questioned the silence of NGOs and media regarding the abuses suffered by Buddhists in Malaysia: 

When riots in Meikhtilar Township in Myanmar happened, (the global) media and international organizations (like the) UN, Human Rights Watch (reported) about it and some even exaggerated the (situation), labeling it ethnic cleansing, genocide, Muslims in Myanmar are being brutally massacred, or something like that….But why are they silent than normal about the current massacre in Malaysia targeting Myanmar Buddhists? How many lives must the Burmese Buddhists sacrifice further to put the (situation) on pages and screens? Please show the so-called RIGHTS you all repeatedly use whenever you get every chance to make the Burmese Buddhists dishonorable in every page and every screen worldwide.

On June 4, when voices became louder and attacks became more serious, the Myanmar government issued an Aide Memoire to Malaysia's Ambassador in Myanmar urging the Malaysian government to investigate the issue immediately and take legal actions against responsible persons. On June 6, Malaysia reported that 900 Myanmar nationals were detained during a security sweep. Myanmar government is preparing[my] to send a team of special representatives to Malaysia.

Since some of the injured Myanmar migrants cannot afford the hospital bills, the Malaysia Kampung Free Funeral Service Social Team (Kampung FFSS) gave donation to the victims. U Aung Ko Win, President of the Kanbawza Bank who also runs Myanmar Airways International (MAI) donated[my] $50,000 US dollars and cut the MAI air ticket fees of the Malaysia-Myanmar route by 50% for the convenience of migrants who wish to go back to Myanmar. Another well-known wealthy personnel, U Zaw Zaw, who is President of Myanmar Football Federation announced[my] that he will donate 1,000 air tickets for those who want to go back to Myanmar, plus additional $20,000 US dollars donation to Kampung FFSS.

Many netizens on Facebook changed their profile pictures to black to grieve the deaths of Myanmar citizens in Malaysia.

May 27 2013

‘Illegal” Libraries in Myanmar

The Irrawaddy interviews Ye Htet Oo who has launched four mobile libraries in Myanmar. To avoid censorship and acquire license during the military regime, library owners pretended to operate bookstores. Aside from sharing his experience, Ye Htet Oo also discussed the reading culture in Myanmar.

April 25 2013

Giants, Hackers, Trolls: Where Mythology and Online Activism Meet

Netizens have come to know a “troll” as ”someone who posts a deliberately provocative message” to fuel an argument online.

That these inflammatory net users were labeled as “trolls” was no accident. The original meaning of a troll is found in Scandinavian mythology, in which trolls are “creatures bent on mischief and wickedness.”

In fact, the online world has much more in common with the mythological world than you might expect. Many of the roles that have emerged in the Internet age are very similar to the structure used in traditional tales to impart some truth to listeners.

For instance, Loki, in Scandinavian folklore, is a trickster, a character set on breaking rules for ultimately positive effects. In the online world, a trickster is a whistleblower, the unconventional agent who will alert the rest of the world in order to trigger social change, such as former United States army soldier Bradley Manning, who is accused of passing on classified information to WikiLeaks.

In the same vein, blacksmiths and dwarves take material in its raw form and build objects that allow the gods to fight against their enemies. They give the raw material a shape that is useful and understandable, similar to what professional and citizen journalists do with information that is made available online by WikiLeaks.

And in Norse mythology, when Thor and the other gods fail to launch Baldr's funeral ship so that he may be resurrected in the other world, they call upon a giantess of supernatural power to propel the ship forward. In the online world, organizations of “giant” power such as Anonymous throw their weight behind information or causes to increase their awareness.

Whistleblowers and tricksters

Illustration of Alfred Smedberg's The boy who never was afraid, John Bauer, 1912.

Illustration of Alfred Smedberg's “The boy who never was afraid”, John Bauer, 1912. Public domain

A trickster often times effects positive change through scheming and thievery, despite perhaps having less-than-pure intentions. 

Bradley Manning himself noted this when he admitted during testimony that he took classified government information about the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, according to a transcript of his statements:

I created copies of the CIDNE-I and CIDNE-A SigAct tables as part of the process of backing up information. At the time I did so, I did not intend to use this information for any purpose other than for back up. However, I later decided to release this information publicly. At that time, I believe and still believe that these tables are two of the most significant documents of our time.

His role as whistleblower (or, as the french say, “alert-launcher”) is characterized by his aim - he again testified - to trigger national debate on the role of the US military and on US foreign policy.

His actions helped to re-establish a line of communication between the government, which was holding back a certain truth, and the population, which had been deprived of it.

While his decision might be justified from a purely humanist standpoint, it nevertheless is considered a crime. Manning found himself being challenged, rejected, or even ignored by the mass media.

WikiLeaks and blacksmiths 

Manning then gave the stolen information to WikiLeaks, who worked and shaped the data in a way not dissimilar to the blacksmiths of mythology.

Figures such Julian Assange and Birgitta Jónsdóttir, a member of the Icelandic parliament, processed and analyzed what Manning had given them. The work was journalistic, identifying the context, the players, and the political implications to ensure the information's full impact.

Julian Assange described the role:

Quantum mechanics and its modern evolution left me with a theory of change and how to properly understand how one thing causes another.

In other words, so long as the key facts are not actively identified, they remain uncertain and elusive.

WikiLeaks is not the only entity to assume the role of a blacksmith. Citizen journalists also play a part in forging information into an understandable form.

The extensive research and dissemination efforts carried out most notably by Heather Mash and Jemila Hanan [fr] related to the living conditions of Myanmar's persecuted Muslim minority, the Rohingya community, are an important example of this.

This journalistic work is more than just a mediating role, as Hanan explained in a February 2013 post on her blog:

There is no precedent for using social media to stop a genocide – this is uncharted territory. We need to use social media to create and be the media, us, the people.
Our objectives are to:
1. disseminate information;
2. make connections;
3. encourage people to act.

Anonymous and giants

But Manning's information and WikiLeaks’ analysis would have been pointless without an audience. It was not enough to simply unearth and to shape the information – something needed to intervene so that information was actually read.

Hacktivist group Anonymous stepped into this role, using its might to propel the information foward, as Annie Machon, a former MI5 officer, explained in an op-ed for RT:

If you can do it over cyberspace, you get global awareness of what you’re doing, and the message you’re trying to put out. And this is precisely what Anonymous has achieved, with this publicized assault against certain Israeli websites.
Let’s not call them attacks: they are distributed denial of service attempts against certain countries and certain websites. So what we’re seeing here is a sort of automated mass influx into certain websites that cause them to crash.

While Anonymous relies on data released and shaped by citizen journalists to carry out their actions, their role is not to work the information as a blacksmith but to infuse the information with circulatory force using their extraordinary strength, like the mythological giant.

Twitter, for example, is rich with posts concerning their recent operations such as: #OpIsrael, #OpKashmir, #OpRohingya (which attracted public attention to available information concerning the genocide of this minority), #ReformCFAA (which is part of a protest movement against the Computer Fraud and Abuses Act), or #OpGabon against organ trafficking.

Reposted bycheg00 cheg00
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