Internet Can Help Force Change in Myanmar: British PM

LONDON ~ “People power” via the internet could help shame Myanmar into accepting foreign assistance for cyclone victims, Britain’s Prime Minister Gordon Brown said this week.

Hailing the internet as a modern force for change, Brown said the web meant the tragedy – which is thought to have left some 134,000 people dead or missing – could no longer be kept a secret.

“It is true that in Burma we have not been able to get as much food and supplies into Burma that we would like but now a country like Burma cannot remain hidden,” he told a conference organized by Google.

“Direct people power is going to be a force not just for individual countries but for foreign policy as well.”

He predicted that “whether it is famine, cyclone or whatever, pressure from the people is going to force government interaction”.

Brown, who on Saturday described the Myanmar ruling junta of being “inhuman” for refusing outside help, suggested that the internet could have helped give more details of the Rwandan genocide in 1995 as it was developing.

Internet weblogs – online diaries – were now forcing governments to act and be accountable, and could help force change in places like Myanmar, Zimbabwe and Darfur, he added.

“They could feel people coming to express their anger about certain events. The mood could have an impact that means governments will be forced to change their institutions,” he added.

Brown, who came to power last year vowing greater openness in government and accountability for politicians, earlier Monday launched an online version for the public of his weekly question and answer session with lawmakers.

At the conference he announced a tie-up between the British government and Google for an online scheme to map climate change on its Google Earth application.

As he spoke, Myanmar agreed at an emergency regional meeting in Singapore to let its southeast Asian neighbors coordinate foreign assistance for cyclone victims.

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