were very touched by your presentation and we won’t let our beloved
Venezuela go the same route as that of Burma.
Flor Burrell (Venezuela)
TO ICT IN BURMA
- (By Cham Toik:
Geneva, December 10, 2003)
major problems that exist in Burma today can be traced to the formation of
the Union of Burma when a diverse group of indigenous peoples agreed to work
together in peace before they were freed from colonial rule.
But just months after leaders of the majority Burman and the Shan,
Chin, Kachin and Karenni nationalities signed the Panglong Agreement on
February 12, 1947, General Aung San (father of Nobel Peace Laureate Aung San
Suu Kyi) was assassinated and their hopes of establishing a Federal Union
were dashed. When Burma gained
independence from Britain in 1948, the government of U Nu, who succeeded
General Aung San, was installed.
immediately, the rights of the ethnic nationalities were rejected and civil
war broke out.
As a result of the denial of basic freedoms for all people in Burma
and the right to self-determination previously agreed upon, this civil war
has dragged on for half a century and Burma, which could have become one of
the most vibrant countries in Southeast Asia was reduced to a Least
Developed Country (LDC) in the world.
this day the Burman military government blames the ethnic nationalities for
the country’s failure to develop on par with other countries of Southeast
- Lack of fundamental freedom (Article 19, Universal Declaration of Human
went from bad to the worse when General New Win seized power in a coup
d’etat in 1962, he immediately introduced restrictions on freedom of
expression; the free press has been silenced ever since. The country was
ruled through a draconian one-party system known as the Burma Socialist
Programme Party (BSPP) and other political and social organizations
including those of the ethnic nationalities were forcibly disbanded and
one form or another, state censorship continues to this day. Under the present military government, the Press Scrutiny
Board (PSB), a division of the powerful Ministry of Information, scrutinizes
every single publication considered to be ‘anti-government’ and is
consequently perceived as a threat to the military state. Similar censorship
boards retain stringent control over art, music, film, performance and all
other forms of artistic expression. All authors, publishers, journalists and
poets must submit a personal biography to the board of literary censorship.
board then investigates to find out if these individuals have any
association to opposition political parties or connections to other people
or groups deemed a threat to the regime. Anyone suspected or proved to have
‘undesirable’ connections is placed on a blacklist and their work is
banned. (See chapter on.
Freedom of Opinion, Expression, and the Press in the Burma Human
Rights Yearbook 2002-3 at
part of their overall effort to control information, the present military
regime restricts all forms of communication. Without a government permit,
which is expensive and difficult to obtain, individuals can be arrested for
possessing or using a fax machine, mobile phones, photocopier or computer;
and imprisoned for years. (See, for instance the Computer Science
Development Law of 1996 at
the past month alone, a court in Burma sentenced nine people to death for
high treason, including the editor of a sports magazine, Zaw Thet Htwe, and
some Mon leaders, Nai Min Kyi, Nai Yekkha and Shwe Man, who the junta claim
planned to create a mass movement in collusion with members of Aung San Suu
Kyi's National League for Democracy party. (AP: Rangoon December 3, 2003)
are only two Internet service providers in the country: a department of the
Government’s Telecommunications Ministry and Bagan Cybertech, a company
controlled by the son of the military government’s Prime Minister and top
ranking military officers.
to many parts of the Internet is blocked and only about 10,000 subscribers
have been approved to use email. (Open Democracy Website, Power of
Corporations, June 2003)
are forbidden to communicate with the outside world freely, and although
many have access to foreign radio and telephone services, no independent
media group is allowed to operate inside the country. This situation has
marginalized people depriving them of all forms of information, their only
source being the propaganda apparatus of the state-run media, which is next
to useless as a reliable news source.
Radio and TV programmes (there are
only a few radio stations in Burma) are state-owned and most are the
mouthpieces of the regimes propaganda machine—no ethnic and indigenous
language programme is broadcasted apart from 30 minutes a day for the 7
major ethnic groups combined (Shan, Chin, Kachin, Karen, Kayah, Arakan and
Mon) in their languages.
- Assimilation policy
of the government has affected the life and culture of all indigenous
peoples in Burma. The non-Burman
communities have systematically been deprived of their birthright to teach
in their own languages and produce creative literature to preserve their
cultural heritage. Under the
Burmanization policy exercised by successive Burman governments in Rangoon,
the indigenous peoples are not allowed even to study their own literature in
their own language in schools, whereas the Burman language is made the
dominant and only official language to assimilate and drown out all other
the case of the Mon people, who lost their sovereignty more than two
centuries ago in 1757, Buddhist monasteries now serve as the centers for
preserving old Mon palm manuscripts and provide a venue for community
schools as well. Over the last
few decades, patriotic young Mon people and the monastic community have
taken a united stand by undertaking self-help Mon literacy campaigns
throughout the Mon region.
summer when the government schools close down, large numbers of Mon children
and adults enroll in these schools in the monasteries to learn the basics of
Mon literature. This self-help
Mon literacy movement provides a glimmer of hope for the Mon people to learn
their own language and literature in parts of the country where their
homeland is located. However, even this self-help Mon literacy
movement is constantly under surveillance and cannot grow freely under the
rule of the Burman-dominated, racist military dictatorship. (See the Mon
Unity League’s: The Mon, a people without a country at
monastery communities and students have applied to the military
government’s Press Scrutiny Board for permission to publish in the Mon
language but they are regularly refused permits to print Mon books, even
though the contents pose no threat being simply articles from
Burmese-language magazines translated into Mon.
These writings are not remotely related to politics, yet the PSB still
refuses to give permission because of the assimilation policy towards the
Only a few Mon magazines endorsed by senior and revered
monks have been granted publication rights by the regime after waiting
through a long censorship process directed by various levels of the
administration. At least six
months are required before approval is given and often the authorities do
not issue permission or offer a rejection, but simply ignore the
journalists and publishers have also been arrested and imprisoned by
successive military governments in Burma.
In 1976, a well-respected Mon abbot,
Rev. Palita, was arrested and sentenced to 7 years for publishing the Gatub
Khit Mon magazine.
Palita, 79, has written more than 30 books in Mon and heads a monastery at Kamawet
village, Mudon Township, and chairs a summer school program in Mon literacy,
and through his work has inspired hundreds of young Mon to continue writing
in their native tongue.
When on trial in Moulmein in 1975,
he refused to speak in Burmese, even though he knew it well enough.
"This is Monland," he argued, "where I should be able to
speak Mon in official matters."
has continued to control state's affairs and insisted that Mon speak
Burmese in all official matters.
“Mon Culture: Dying or Reviving?” by Min Zin / The Irrawaddy, October,
Soe Aung, a leader of the Mon Literature and Culture Committee was arrested
for publishing a poetry book and the authorities shut down Kaung Mon Press
in Rangoon in December 2002 after printing poetry without the approval of
the Press Scrutiny Board. (Kao Wao News No. 38)
- Another example of ICT in Burma is the setting up IntraNet centres in the
high schools (Basic Education High School), in which computers in Kamawet
village, Mudon Township belonging to private business were gathered up by
local authorities to equip the village school for media and computer
training due to a computer shortage in the school.
Senior military leaders Maung Bo and Thura Myint Aung came to the
village school to hold a ceremony to open the computer-training programme.
The authorities needed 10
computers but the school has only 5 and another 5 were taken from the
village’s various printing businesses.
Kamawet is the largest Mon community in Mon State with about 10,000
households. The computer
businesses operating in the village are forced to provide computers during
the training course, most students in other schools do not have the chance
to access computers even after training, because the number is so limited
and teachers do not allow them to be used. (IMNA news report: 24-11-03)
The new challenge, a constructive approach
1988 the Burma Socialist Programme Party government formed by General Ne Win
collapsed as a result of a popular uprising.
The people’s movement was bloodily suppressed and a new military
clique seized state power. Many
civilians and students fled to the border areas and neighboring countries
where they continue today to languish in refugee camps or small enclaves
known as the liberated areas.
communication has overshadowed all sides in past and present negotiations;
recently however some media groups have emerged in these liberated areas
(border areas) among Burmese democratic groups and indigenous peoples during
the ‘90s. But very few publications, journals and magazines in the border areas are
distributed in the Chin, Karen, Kachin, Arakan, Shan and Mon languages. For
the most part, the democratic Burmese media groups who use Burmese have
gained the advantage in having access and thus have an edge in playing a
larger role in negotiations with the military government and a third party.
to information of course is vital for a democracy to flourish, but in a
country in which the population is a deliberate target by both rebels and
the military, speaking out is a risk none want to take. Few details about
what is happening in Burma hamper real development in the peace and
seven million people of Mon ethnic origin in Burma and Thailand have no
radio station or daily newspaper in their own language.
Two monthly news journals (Snong Tang and Khit Poey), with a
circulation of about 2,000 copies are the only Mon language publication to
serve the migrant community and the remote areas in Burma. Otherwise the Mon community must follow the news through
Burmese and the Thai language media.
Wao Newsgroup was founded in 2001 to provide information about the situation
in the Mon areas to the international community regarding ethnic, indigenous
issues, forced labour, land confiscation and other human rights violations
in Southern Burma to provide a clearer understanding of the situation in
Burma and hence build a more constructive peace policy.
small indigenous media groups depend for survival on self-reliance and the
donations of a small band of patriotic-minded supporters.
Some receive limited funds from NGOs and donations from the local
community. Without proper
training and government funding, indigenous media groups are facing a new
challenge to keep on par with major and international communities.
support will be necessary if fledgling independent media groups are to
survive and increase their news coverage on issues affecting the indigenous
peoples, ethnic nationalities, and isolated communities that they seek to
serve. Above all, we indigenous
people need to have the freedom to exercise our fundamental rights in order
to enlist support and to increase awareness in the international community,
all of which are crucial to making peace a reality.
KAOWAO NEWS GROUP
Tel: + 66 7 169-0971, + 66 1 561-0860
Tel: + 1- 403 - 248 2027 (Canada)
Online Burma Library --
Kaowao Newsgroup is committed to social justice,
peace, and democracy in Burma. We hope to be
able to provide more of an in-depth analysis
that will help to promote lasting peace and
change within Burma.
Editors, reporters, writers, and overseas
volunteers are dedicated members of the Mon
activist community based in Thailand.
Our motto is working together for lasting peace