15th April 2021
The clampdown on the media, internet and mobile phone services is beginning to have an effect. I have not had contact with my regular contacts in Myanmar for 5 days now, but on the other hand, the banking system is close to collapse. The media sources are drying up as well, but the Global New Light of Myanmar is still managing to give us the latest news about the price of tamarind leaves and how farmers in the Magway region are having success with mixed cropping of Theemhwe bananas and Calabash.
That’s brought us all up to date with news of national importance from the state media outlet.
The whole country should be celebrating the Thingyan festival today. It is the New Year and is also known as the water festival, where people throw water at and over each other. It usually lasts for about 3 days and is a time of feasting and drinking. This year, however, the towns are like ghost towns, with no one on the streets. The civilians will not let this go unnoticed.
Meanwhile ways are being found to keep up some flow of information.
In a safehouse in Yangon last Thursday morning, a small group of 20-somethings gathered to assemble a portable radio transmitter. For several hours, they broadcast translations of international news into Burmese—tributes to protesters killed by the armed forces, revolutionary songs and poems, and interviews with the leaders of Myanmar’s civil disobedience movement that has sprung up to oppose the military junta that seized power in February.
Then, they dismantled the equipment, each person taking a different piece by a different route to another safe location where they store it. Security is tight. They never broadcast from the same place twice, and the group use aliases, even among themselves. This is Federal FM Radio, live on 90.2 MHz.
Its name betrays its politics. Support for a federal Myanmar, one which rejects the state’s majoritarian Bamar identity and strives for true ethnic unity, has surged in the months since the coup. It is a message that does not sit well with the military government, which has responded with violent repression and internet blackouts. But young dissidents like these refuse to be silenced and have turned to old technologies to spread the word.
“This radio was born out of Myanmar’s Spring Revolution,” said one of its founders, who goes by “Mulan.” “This is revolution radio.”
The junta has imposed nightly internet blackouts to disrupt the protest movement, preventing people from organizing and communicating with the outside world. Social media platforms have been blocked, although many people continued to access them through virtual private networks.
However, on April 2, the mobile internet in Myanmar was completely switched off. Fixed-line connections are rare, and the move left millions of people unable to access news or to communicate with one another. In the vacuum, State media has broadcast propaganda that underplays the scale of the crisis, portrays protesters as “terrorists” and foreign agents, and blames the civil disobedience movement for recent violence on the streets.
“Our people need to get information, real information, because the military spread out fake news on their own media,” Mulan said. She and her colleagues were able to source radio equipment from a friend of the movement — they won’t say precisely who, for obvious reasons. The team is entirely made up of young, digital natives, and most of them were working for civil society organizations before the coup. None of them knew how to operate the gear, but they found technicians willing to train them. “So now, we are learning, like, a radio crash course,” Mulan said.Source The SWLing Post, a community of shortwave radio and amateur radio enthusiasts.
The Economist is forecasting that Myanmar will probably become a failed state because of a wrecked economy, caused by the Coup Leaders’ economic incompetence. It suggests that the Generals haven’t thought it through, expecting the civilians to roll over after a couple of weeks. They are now backed into a corner, they can’t go forward without increasing the level of already extreme violence and they can’t go back. Meanwhile, the country goes rapidly downhill.
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