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Blogs helping expose Myanmar horrors

  • Story Highlights
  • Blogger: People risk their lives to send photos because it's their duty for country
  • "If they get caught, you will never know their future"
  • Woman on phone: "Who can help us?"
  • Student sent video to CNN because people "should know what is happening"
  • Next Article in World »
By Wayne Drash and Phil Black
CNN
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LONDON, England (CNN) -- Armed with a laptop, a blogger named Ko Htike has thrust himself into the middle of the violent crackdown against monks and other peaceful demonstrators in his homeland of Myanmar.

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Ko Htike runs his Myanmar blog out of his London apartment and says he's trying to stop the violence.

From more than 5,500 miles away, he's one of the few people getting much needed information out to the world.

He runs the blog out of his London apartment, waking up at 3 a.m. every day to review the latest digitally smuggled photos, video and information that's sent in to him.

With few Western journalists allowed in Myanmar, Htike's blog is one of the main information outlets. He said he has as many as 40 people in Myanmar sending him photos or calling him with information. They often take the photos from windows from their homes, he said. Video Watch a blogger's fight for Myanmar »

Myanmar's military junta has forbidden such images, and anyone who sends them is risking their lives.

"If they get caught, you will never know their future. Maybe just disappear or maybe life in prison or maybe dead," he told CNN.

Why would they take such risks?

"They thought that this is their duty for the country," he said. "That's why they are doing it. It's like a mission."

Htike, a 28-year-old who left Myanmar seven years ago to study in England, said about 20,000 people visit the site every day.

On Thursday, as soldiers reportedly fired into crowds and beat Buddhist monks in the nation's largest city of Yangon, Htike's site posted photographs of the violence and some messages from the region. One sent at 1500 local time said, "Right now they're using fire engines and hitting people and dragging them onto E2000 trucks and most of them are girls and people are shouting."

One photograph showed monks holding a sign with a message of hope and happiness. "May they be free from danger and enmity: May they live peacefully," it said. Another photo showed people sprinting from the military, the body of one person sprawled on the ground. Photo See photos of the protests »

In a country where Buddhist monks are revered, the violence against them could stir even more outrage among the people of Myanmar. "Now, there is blood shed on the monastery," Htike said.

On the popular online community of Facebook, several Myanmar support pages were set up with links keeping a close eye on the latest developments. One letter floating around the Internet from a group calling itself the "Global Alliance of Burmese" students called on people abroad to stage protests Thursday.

"We call on you to take action, to take the lead, and to show solidarity with our fellow countrymen back home," it said. "The streets of Yangon bleed red, and it will all be in vain if we do not act and mobilize for change."

"Our primary objective for doing this is for solidarity and moral support with the monks and protesters back home," the letter said.

Other people used technology as simple as the cell phone as a means to get the word out on what was happening.

"We didn't do any terrorism, but they sharp-shoot us," one woman said by phone inside Myanmar. "I just want to say we have no weapons and no rights."

She added, "Who can help us?"

The last time the nation, then known as Burma, saw such widespread protests was in 1988, when today's instantaneous means of communication did not exist. The government used brutal force to quash that democratic uprising, with few people seeing what happened. View a timeline of events there »

Today's technology means that can't happen again.

"They are ready to die for that," said Vincent Brossels with Reporters Without Borders. "I spoke with a Burmese journalist this morning in Rangoon and he told me that now I don't care about anything. I'm ready to be in jail. I'm ready to die for that."

Benjamin Valk, a 25-year-old student from a university in Tokyo, Japan, sent CNN.com video of saffron-robed monks carrying out a peaceful protest earlier this week in Yangon, once known as Rangoon. The video shows thousands of monks and civilians walking together and chanting.

He said he felt compelled to share the video because people "should know what is happening in a country like Myanmar."

"In a world where democracy is considered the better or perhaps the best political system, there is huge global support for a people who dare to openly challenge a military dictatorship and call for democracy," he said.

Valk, a Dutch native, was in Myanmar for a 10-day vacation. He left the country on Tuesday before the violent crackdown began. He said he has heard reports of foreigners being expelled and their electronic equipment seized to keep video and pictures like his from being transmitted.

"I think it's good for the world to see," he said.

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Htike agrees, saying he's just trying to stop the killing in his homeland.

"If I can publish these kind of [photos] and this kind of news to the world, so maybe they may stop a little bit." E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

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