Ryersonian staff, Fatima Syed and Sameera Raja, will be covering the panel discussion Behind the Veil of Democracy: Burma's struggle for freedom. The panel is by the student group, International Issues Discussion (IID) with guest speakers from PEN Canada, a nonpartisan organization supporting freedom of expression.
In January, the UN had confirmed several massacres in Burma and violence against Muslim citizens. The massacres have been described as discrimination and ethnic cleansing.
Dr. Ma Thida speaks about her experience and plans drafting a constitution since 1993 and her sentencing.
"I was sentenced to 20 years just before my 27th birthday...I had severe chest pains and my diagnosis was tuberculosis [while in prison]"
Thida faced tuberculosis and liver failure during her sentencing but was denied treatment. Medical care was stripped from many prisoners in Burma.
Thida says she began her hunger strike when prison security asked her to give up her medication
Thida says, "true meaning[of hunger strike] to provide primary healthcare in Burma."
"I was locked behind doors 23 hours and seven days," says Thida and how she was not free.
"If we voluntarily let our rights go away, we lose our rights. Other than that we would never lose our rights," Thida says.
Second speaker: Nay Phone Latt begins
Latt learned to speak English during his time in prison in 2008.
"At the time of my imprisonment, I had time to write to my family and friends," Latt says who published a book called "Letter to my brother"
Latt was born in the 80s in a politically active family, who were part of the National League for Democracy. He says he was also part of the group as a young child, and youth member.
Latt discuses the 2007 revolution in Burma that gained media coverage. He says the revolution was because of advances technology(smartphones) and youth accessibility.
"They were very afraid of the camera," says Latt about government officials in Burma, and the reason he was sentenced to prison.
Latt says it's very difficult to become a writer in Burma because many freelance articles are never published due to censorship. "If you want to be a writer in our country you have to overcome to obstacles: one the editor, and two the censorship."
"That's why our blog is famous in the Myanmar community," Latt says.
" I tried to write whatever I could in my blog," Latt says.
Latt says internet was restricted of many things (Internet censorship) and could not use things like a USB. Latt then started a cyber cafe in 2007, which became popular among bloggers and young adults in Burma.
Latt says he tried to watch the only English channel available in Burma during his sentencing to learn English. He also planned to write a 10 word letter each day as a way to also learn the language.
Latt see's the "hope of the people" as a difficult and burdening task because of lack of government support he has to give back to Burma. He is still not satisfied with the level of training he can provide young Burmese people.
"There's misuse of freedom of expression as well. There's so much hate speech in social media and outside. Some of the hate speech in dangerous for society."
"Some of the religious conflict that's happening in our country is because of hate speech," says Latt in regards to the massacres.
"We have three pillars for the power now. " "Although we eliminated censorship to media, we need to apply license to media ownership."
"There was no journalism school in our life," Thida says. She adds that people fall into the propaganda.