Myanmar’s Suu Kyi demands access to social media tools to spread her message

Drawing her inspiration from the revolutions driven by social media in Tunisia and Egypt, Myanmar’s long-suffering opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi said she wants to join other pro-democracy activists by using Twitter and Facebook.

For most of the past 20 years until her release from house arrest in November, virtually all communication with the outside world had been denied the Nobel peace laureate by the military regime that rules the country.

Now she wants to catch up by joining the global online community, she said in a telephone interview with Canada’s Globe and Mail newspaper published Saturday.

The pro-democracy icon said she finally has her first internet connection at her Yangon home, and while she has paid more than $1 000 to a junta-controlled company for the privilege, the connection is too slow to access social networks.

“I think we need to — what do you call it — raise the megabyte?” she told the Mail.

“So we’ve applied for a stronger link-up,” she added. “As soon as the conditions are right, I want to have both Facebook and Twitter.”

The two popular US-based social networking sites were used by anti-government demonstrators to thwart censorship during demonstrations in Tunisia that led to the ousting of longtime dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, and in Egypt where strongman president Hosni Mubarak was driven from power.

Facebook and Twitter also continue to be used to get out the latest information in other Middle Eastern and North African countries where anti-government demonstrations have been met with deadly violence.

Aung San Suu Kyi, 65, hailed the role that the Egyptian army played during that country’s 18-day revolution.

“What everybody noticed is the Egyptian army did not fire on the people, which is the greatest difference and the most critical difference” between conditions in Egypt and those in Myanmar, she said.

The events in Cairo stand in stark contrast to what happened in her own country in 1988, when protests erupted against the military and were brutally crushed. Some 3,000 people were killed.

“Because the Burmese army does shoot down the people, it’s not very likely that people will want to go onto the streets” now to press for the junta’s ouster, she said.

“But on the other hand, one cannot say that the Burmese army is always going to shoot at the people.”

Suu Kyi took a lead role in the pro-democracy movement and swept her National League for Democracy to a landslide election win in 1990, but the NLD was never allowed to take power.

Her party boycotted the country’s first election in 20 years, held last November 7, saying the rules were unfair. – AFP



Sign up to our newsletter to get the latest in digital insights. sign up

Welcome to Memeburn

Sign up to our newsletter to get the latest in digital insights.