News from Myanmar Difficult to Obtain Much of the reporting coming out of Myanmar is accomplished by people who risk their lives to send information to Burmese pro-democracy advocates in exile. Aye Chan Naing, executive director of the Democratic Voice of Burma, talks about the dangers of reporting from the country formerly known as Burma.
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News from Myanmar Difficult to Obtain

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News from Myanmar Difficult to Obtain

News from Myanmar Difficult to Obtain

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SCOTT SIMON, host:

The streets of Yangon are much quieter today after a crackdown on protest by the military junta in Myanmar. U.N. envoy Ibrahim Gambari is meeting with military leaders there. Much of the reporting coming out of Myanmar, also known as Burma, is coming from people who risk their lives to send information to Burmese pro-democracy advocates who are in exile. Many Burmese are turning to the broadcast at the Democratic Voice of Burma in Norway.

Aye Chan Naing is the executive director. He was a student leader during anti-junta protests in 1998 and joins us from Oslo.

Thanks very much for being with us.

Mr. AYE CHAN NAING (Executive Director, Democratic Voice of Burma): Thank you very much.

SIMON: What are some of the ways in which you get reports from Burma?

Mr. NAING: We're getting lots of the time for our journalists on the ground and also our contacts who are giving us information. They are the one who are really taking the risk. We could talk to people in the crowd who have a mobile telephone. Sometimes a bit more complicated, we have to secretly record the interview in the crowd without noticing to the authority. We also talk directly to the people at home through their land phone.

SIMON: What's the effect of, let's say, bloggers and text messages?

Mr. NAING: That's a really big impact. Internet is still very much limited usage in Burma compared to many other countries in the world partly because it's very, very expensive and also mainly because the government restrict it a lot. But even in that situation, a lot of young people started using the Internet and now what's happening during since last week, lots of bloggers managed to publish photos, video footage taken by their mobile telephone.

SIMON: Hasn't the government recently tried to crack down on Internet traffic?

Mr. NAING: They have been. They have been, especially since the last week. They have been trying to restrict the use of the Internet and also the mobile phone and the landline. We have lots of experience that the people who are giving us information, their land phone was cut off or their mobile telephone will stop transmitting. They've been really striking down the information that are coming out of Burma.

SIMON: Are any of the people that you work with - have they've been arrested or imprisoned for their activities?

Mr. NAING: Not the ones that we are working with have been arrested. But our journalists, for example, in a very serious and dangerous situation, it has been almost three weeks that none of them go back to their home and sleep because the authority started to notice who they are. So they're sleeping and hiding in different places.

SIMON: Mr. Naing, as we noted, you were one of the leaders during the protest in 1988. Are these protests of the same character? Is there something different about them this time?

Mr. NAING: Interestingly, I think it's a very similar character we have seen in terms of, like, majority of the people in the demonstration are young students. They were like my age, in fact, when I was in 1988. They were, like, 20, 22. They were very much actively leading the demonstration.

SIMON: When you note that the situation is very similar to what happened in 1988, do you hope for a different ending this time than what happened in 1988?

Mr. NAING: I do really hope for a different ending, especially when the whole world are witnessing what happened in Burma. Back in '88, nobody's really seen it and the lots of people probably don't even know where the Burma is.

Now, we have a totally different situation, and especially if this uprising ended up like in 1988, I think it would be such a shame for the international community that the whole international community can't do anything but just sit and lie back and say, sorry, we can't do anything. That would be such a shame and tragedy.

SIMON: Aye Chan Naing, who is the executive director of the Voice Burma, speaking with us from Oslo.

Thank you very much.

Mr. NAING: Thank you very much.

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