Burma (Myanmar) Cut Off from the Net

Ko Htike, a Burmese blogger now living in the United Kingdom, has been cut off from his source of images from home. Today he wrote in his blog ko htike’s prosaic collection:

"Dear All,

I sadly announce that the Burmese military junta
has cut off the internet connection throughout the country. I therefore
would not be able to feed in pictures of the brutality by the brutal
Burmese military junta.

I will also try my best to feed in their demonic appetite of fear and
paranoia by posting any pictures that I receive though other means
(Journos!! please don’t ask me what other means would be??). I will
continue to live with the motto that “if there is a will there is a
way”.

We probably need to lobby the  Chinese government or UN envoy to Burma to ask the junta to switch on the Internet. Please!"

Cutting off the outside world is nothing new to repressive regimes, which have shown an alarming ability to keep pace with communications technology. In Karaoke Fascism: Burma and the Politics of Fear, anthropologist Monique Skidmore described the power of government censorship to produce the troubling side effect of self-censorship.

The hands-on approach to destroying visual images, reducing international broadcasts to state, and destroying literary  and artistic works that may contain guarded political or economic commentary  is undoubtedly crude but effective. However, the long-term and ultimately more efficient result of such manual censorship involves the waves of panic, fear, suspicion, and rumor that such censorship evokes. Each time an act of censorship is witnessed or rumored, many frightened Burmese begin a process of self-censorship.

The regime’s spokesperson, Lieutenant Colonel Hla Min,
told a journalist about the high degree of self-censorship among the
artistic and literary communities that ensures that the Press Scrutiny
Board is less and less often presented with work it will censor. Hla
Min stated that: "the people are very used to the old socialist habit
[of censorship]. They don’t want to give strong recommendations to the
government" (Mockenhaupt 2001: 74)*. Functioning in the same way as
propaganda disseminations and intelligence gathering, self-censorship
is a significant victory for incipient fascist systems of control,
bringing efficiency to these mechanisms of domination.

Hopefully, Ko Htike’s and his information sources will find
ways to overcome the "mechanisms of domination" through blogging or by
other means of expression.

*Mockenhaupt, Brian. 2001.  "Wordsmithery: Control over Writers and
the Media." Far Eastern Economic Review 164, September 20: 37

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