Citizen journalists report from Myanmar
September 28, 2007 | Journalism,Myanmar
Most journalists have been banned from Myanmar, and a Japanese journalist, Kenji Nagai, was killed yesterday. The military fired guns into crowds of protesters, and at least 13 people have been killed since Wednesday. Authorities closed Internet cafes, shut down Internet access and cellular-telephone service, and they have beaten people caught with cell phones or video cameras.
Several newspapers in Myanmar have stopped publishing. But others have been publishing photographs, video and text messages they’ve been getting from people in Myanmar. Mizzima News in India is a Burmese news organization established in August 1998 by a group of Burmese journalists in exile. The Irrawaddy in Thailand was founded in 1992 by expatriate Burmese citizens. The Democratic Voice of Burma is in Oslo.
Meanwhile, the United States imposed sanctions on Myanmar leaders. The European Union is considering more sanctions. Japan ruled out immediate sanctions because it said most of its aid to Myanmar is humanitarian. China also ruled out sanctions.
Foreign companies, such as British engine-maker Rolls Royce, French energy company Total and U.S. oil company Chevron, are “operating normally” with “business as usual,” even though human-rights organizations have condemned them for “funding the dictatorship.”
To those who ask us to exit the country, we reply that a forced departure, far from solving Myanmar’s problems, would only see us replaced by other operators who would probably be less respectful of the ethics that underpin our operations. — Jean-Francois Lasalle, director of external relations for Total Exploration & Production
Norway’s Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg and Ole Danbolt Mjøs, head of the Norwegian Nobel Committee, condemned violence in Myanmar yesterday. Authorities also encouraged Norwegian companies to avoid investing in Myanmar, but shipping company Wilh Wilhelmsen says it will continue to do business there.
In addition to Chevron and Total, foreign oil companies in Myanmar include Petronas, PTTEP, South Korea’s Daewoo International Corp., Chinese state-run companies China National Offshore Oil Corp., and China Petroleum & Chemical Corp.
Demonstrations started Aug. 19 to protest the economic burden of increased fuel prices. Buddhist monks joined the demonstrations, and protests broadened to include the release of political prisoners and opposition to the ruling military junta.