Students rally for people of Myanmar

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By using Facebook, campaign supporters can post photos outlawed by the junta.

On Sept. 28, the main Internet link in Myanmar was cut and many of the country’s newspapers were forced to halt production after the country’s military regime threatened further anti-junta protesting.

In 1989, the military regime changed the name of the country from Burma to Myanmar. News outlets differ on which name they use. The White House uses Burma. For once, the TC Daily Planet agrees. However, this article comes from our community media partner, the Minnesota Daily, and we have not changed their usage.

Still, this hasn’t stopped students from rallying support for the Burmese people through the popular social networking Web site Facebook.

Anti-violence groups and events have been popping up on the site throughout the past few weeks as the situation in Myanmar has violently heated up.

Pyi Maung, an architecture junior, lived in Myanmar until 2003 when he moved to the United States for college. His siblings have all left Myanmar, but his parents still live there.

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Maung said he hopes the movement on Facebook spreads to students who might not know about the situation in Myanmar.

“There was another uprising in 1988 but people didn’t know that,” Maung said. “But this time, because of the Internet access and use, students know that and have more awareness.”

Brandon Erickson, an active member of the United States Campaign of Burma and the Burmese American Democratic Alliance, said he uses Facebook to invite friends to Burmese support events and rallies.

“I think we should keep capitalizing on it and really use it to get people more involved so that actual change can happen,” Erickson said.

However, he said he hopes students expand their research beyond the Web site.

“It’s a starting point, it’s a really great starting point,” he said.

The Facebook group “Support the Monks’ protest in Burma” has 252,144 members from around the world.

The group’s page contains 34 videos and more than 400 posted items such as pictures, personal accounts and links to other Web sites. The site also mentions “A Day of International Action for a Free Burma,” an initiative that is scheduled to commence Oct. 6.

The group is hoping to raise support for the Burmese monks and citizens affected through the marches, which members hope will happen in cities worldwide.

Even if the Facebook members aren’t able to attend the event, they are still being made aware of the situation, Erickson said.

Because of the limited phone use and lack of Internet, Maung said he hasn’t spoken to his parents in two weeks.

People in Myanmar are afraid to talk about the current political situation because they are afraid of the military regime, he said.

“You just talk about how your family is.”

Joanne, a Minneapolis resident who didn’t want to release her last name because of potential backlash from Myanmar’s military regime, was in Myanmar at the end of August and was aware of the Burmese citizens’ fear.

“You’re really not even able to talk to people about what’s going on in the government,” she said. “Our tour guide would sometimes say, ‘I don’t know what you are talking about.’ But when we were privately with her, she was much more like, ‘It’s terrible, it’s really terrible.’ “

Because the situation in Myanmar is constantly changing, it’s important for those concerned to post information and updates on Web sites like Facebook, Erickson said.

The ability to upload posts, videos and photos has given power to the citizen-reporter, Erickson said.