Burma is closer than we think …
Burma is closer than we think … / 14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez
Posted on October 23, 2014
14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez, Prague, 15 October 2014 – A few years ago, when
I was overcome with despair about the situation of my country, I thought
about those who were in worse shape with regards to the lack of
freedoms. Two nations invariably came to mind: North Korea and Burma.
The first of these still tops the list of places where few want to live,
while Myanmar (Burma) has undertaken a slow and imperfect process of
In Prague I just met two Burmese who are contributing to these small
changes, the blogger Nay Phone Latt and activist Soe Aung.
Question: Nay, you are just 34-years-old and you were arrested for
spreading information about the 2007 protests in your country on the
Internet, and then convinced of the alleged crime of violating the
electronic law. Do you think that now the access to information is more
Nay Phone Latt: Right now there is less censorship in the media, it is
not as strong as before. I’m speaking not only of digital media, but
also of the written press that is subject to fewer controls on the part
of the government. The problem we still have is that some of these media
are in the hands of the ruling party and the others, which are private,
belong to people who have very good relations with the military, so many
are corrupt. However, there are always some who try to be independent.
There are still very clear limits on what you can write and what you
can’t. For example if someone posts an article criticizing the
Government and uncovering a corruption scandal, they can get into
serious trouble and even end up in jail.
“There are still very clear limits on what you can write and what you can’t”
Q. How has the situation changed since the election in 2012?
Soe Aung: Currently in Burma we have a Parliament whose majority is
still made up by the military. The Constitution reserves a quarter of
the seats in parliament and 56 of the 24 Senate seats to the ruling
Union Solidarity and Development Party. Meanwhile, the opposition
National League for Democracy (LND) has barely 43 seats. Thus, it is
every difficult to promote changes, becaue this isn’t a real democratic
Q. The Nobel Peace Prize winner, Aung San Suu Kyi is the most visible
face of dissent in Burma What other opposition groups are calling for
Soe Aung: There is the movement known as Generation 88, because there
was a popular protest in 1988 against the military junta. These
demonstrations, composed mostly of students, were brutally repressed.
Currently the group is still very strong in Burmese society and demands
a democratic and open society.
Q. What are the main problems for the Burmese people now?
Nay Phone Latt: First, the lack of trust in institutions, in the police,
the judiciary and the government. People have a lot of disbelief, they
are very skeptical. The whole society has lost trust in the military
regime. We have lost the ability to believe.
Aung Soe R.: In my opinion, our biggest problem is still poverty. We
still have very poor people in our country who do not even have a piece
of land to grow their own food. We have experienced an economic opening
but the big winners are the military and the people close to them who
have become very rich.
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