Burmese Attempt Own ‘Facebook Revolution’

By BA KAUNG

In an attempt to emulate the democratic revolution in Egypt that was sparked by a Facebook campaign, a group of Burmese activists operating inside the country have set up a Facebook page dubbed “Just Do It Against Military Dictatorship.”

The social networking campaign denounces the country’s military dictatorship, calls for Burmese military chief Snr-Gen Than Shwe and his family to leave the country and urges the army to join with the people.

The campaign began on Feb. 13—just two days after Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak resigned from office under pressure from protesters.

The “Just Do It Against Military Dictatorship” Facebook homepage on March 2, 2011. (Photo: The Irrawaddy)

The Facebook page, now known simply as “JD,” has prompted the distribution of anti-government material in a number of places across Burma and raised security levels in Rangoon.“We are not daydreaming,” said an activist in Rangoon who said he was a JD supporter. “No dictator can resist a popular movement, we know.”

The campaign has now received the support of over 1,000 activists in Burma, according to one of the organizers who declined to be named due to personal safety concerns.

The organizer told The Irrawaddy on Wednesday that JD supporters have distributed anti-government pamphlets in Mandalay, Burma’s second largest city, and in Taunggyi Township in Shan State.

He said that a poster dropped at the main railway station in Mandalay reads: “Get Out! Than Shwe.”

On Wednesday, JD supporters distributing pamphlets in Zay Cho market—the largest in Mandalay—had to flee when police arrived.

In addition, a professor from Taunggyi University reportedly informed the authorities about the distribution of anti-government pamphlets in Shan State, but no one was arrested.

Facebook is the second most popular site after Gmail among the estimated 400,000 Internet users inside Burma. Twitter, the micro-blogging website, is banned in the country.

Due to the limited access to the Internet for many people inside Burma, it remains uncertain how much further the Facebook campaign can go. But the Burmese authorities, notorious for brutal repression against any form of dissent, have apparently heightened security in Rangoon.

Rangoon residents said they saw anti-riot police trucks driving around the city center on Wednesday morning, although this is not unusual and there is no confirmed link between the security measures and the Facebook campaign.

The Burmese state-run media made no mention of the protests in North Africa and private journals were restricted in reporting the news.

Opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi said that the Burmese people were closely following the protests in Libya. In comparing Libya and Burma, Suu Kyi told the Voice of America that past protests in Burma faced brutal crackdowns from the army, whereas some army units in Libya split and joined with protesters.

“In Burma, I don’t think there was any noticeable divisions with regards to the policies of the military,” Suu Kyi said.

Copyright © 2008 Irrawaddy Publishing Group | http://www.irrawaddy.org

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