Exactly eleven months ago, a video clip of a wedding made its way to YouTube. Today, in part, it is being seen as one of the triggers that may change the course of history in neighbouring Myanmar. The wedding was that of the daughter of Burmese dictator General Than Shwe, who ordered a bloody crackdown recently, to an army major in his brutal regime.
The General reportedly spent millions on the wedding, evidence of which can be seen in the videos — an opulent diamond necklace with each stone the size of a large button. Hundreds of litres of champagne flowed, and the couple received gifts worth $50 million. In a country where the per capita income is $1,691, is ranked 150th in GDP and a Nobel Peace Prize winner, Aung San Suu Kyi, has been held under house arrest for almost 20 years, this leaked video on YouTube was seen as the ultimate evidence of administrative hypocrisy.
Cut to August 2007, when actor Jim Carrey led a US campaign for Suu Kyi's release, he did so on YouTube as part of the US Campaign for Burma organisation. This video, given Carrey’s celebrity, made headlines around the world, just a month before thousands of monks marched on the streets of Rangoon demanding the ouster of Burma’s military regime. In response, the General ordered a crackdown. Once again, the world watched through YouTube.
Videos of monks praying while soldiers are spraying bullets have spouted on YouTube, while clips from news stations are also making the rounds. It is not that Burma has not had uprisings before, but with state-controlled media, what was reported was often a much-diluted version of reality. YouTube might change that, and could prove crucial if the Burmese people succeed in overthrowing a dictator.