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Myanmar bloggers help build 'Budget Huts' in delta

Associated Press Published: June 18, 2008

LABUTTA, Myanmar (AP) -- Bloggers may find their messages blocked by Myanmar's military regime, but that hasn't stopped Nyi Lynn Seck from raising tens of thousands of dollars for cyclone survivors through his website.

Now, the 29-year-old IT specialist and his friends are getting their hands dirty and putting the donations to work by helping to build "Budget Huts" in the Irrawaddy delta, a region still reeling from the May 2-3 killer storm.

Days after Cyclone Nargis hit, the Yangon resident traveled to the delta to document the survivors' stories. He posted their accounts and his photographs on his Web journal.

"I have been blogging for quite a long time and many overseas Myanmar citizens read it. They wanted me to go to the delta and help out," he said.

Nyi Lynn Seck quit his job as a manager at a software solutions company to lead six volunteers, including four other bloggers, on a mission to aid villages around Labutta. They have been here since May 9.

He is just one example of a grass-roots movement that has emerged in Myanmar. Many of those doing private relief work are highly critical of the government effort that followed the storm.

Private efforts have filled a lot of gaps in the relief effort, especially in the early weeks after the storm, when the junta turned back most foreign relief workers. After pleas from the U.N., the junta agreed to international aid, but it still limits foreigners' activities.

Nyi Lynn Seck said most of the $30,000 received by the group came from Myanmar expatriates in Thailand, Singapore and Malaysia but money also was sent from as far away as Europe.

Myanmar's military government, which strictly controls all media including the Internet, blocks most blogging sites. However, they are sometimes accessible by using a server that masks the site's true origin.

Bloggers played a major role in ensuring the free flow of information during anti-government protests in Myanmar last fall and the violent crackdown that followed. At least one blogger, Nay Phone Latt, remains in prison.

Nyi Lynn Seck's blog has in the past included personal observations, advice for would-be bloggers and news items. It has not been seen as anti-government.

Nyi Lynn Seck said he became an aid worker because he felt the junta's response to the storm - which killed 78,000 people and left 56,000 more missing - was inefficient.

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