MYANMAR: Entering a Dangerous Period?

ALEXANDRE GUIRAUD WRITES- In this time of drastic change in Myanmar’s media structure, many companies are trying to help the development of the country by gaining a new market. One of the most recent people to do so was Google’s Executive Chairman, Eric Schmidt, who traveled to Myanmar to promote Google’s new website.


In a speech, the chairman expressed his relief to see a country that is open to such things as the Internet and cellphones. However, he mentioned that the country would soon be faced with a dangerous period. In the same speech, he openly advocated an open Web and freedom of press and information.


Since 2011, Myanmar has been transitioning relatively peacefully from a military dictatorship to a new democracy. However, in the past few months, some violence began to emerge between religious groups in different parts of the country. These tensions are widespread through the Internet. Schmidt is fearful of the way the public will react when all of the information will be available to everyone. To put an end to these tensions, the government sent the army to control the situation.


Thus, Schmidt is afraid of the government’s response toward every possible rally that could emerge due to the power of information. According to the Wall Street Journal, he also expressed his concern over the fact that the government was not able to come to an agreement over the press freedom laws yet.


In the past months, the citizens of Myanmar have finally been able to afford luxury items, such as cellphones, whose prices have dropped from almost three thousand American dollars for a SIM card to three dollars. The population now has access to information using these new phones, as well as the new privately owned newspapers that have been circulating the streets since the beginning of April.


It seems that tensions will continue among the citizens. However, now that they have access to information, the government will have to deal with them in democratic ways. Recent warnings being circulated by Western embassies telling their citizens to avoid certain areas and to stay in after dark, could foretell the possible dangerous period that has yet to come.


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