Image from the cover photo of the Myanmar Memes Facebook page
The era of Internet memes has arrived in Myanmar, where the online phenomenon has become a popular way to discuss various social and political topics—particularly upcoming elections. For example, the Facebook group ‘Myanmar Memes’ now has more than 85,000 members developing and sharing memes as a creative way to vent frustration about life and the government.
Below are some of the most popular political themes Myanmar's Facebook users are discussing today.
The upcoming general election
Myanmar's second democratic election is set to take place in late 2015, wherein the opposition party, National League for Democracy (NLD) led by Nobel Laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, will compete with the Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP), which is currently in power. Many believe this hotly anticipated election will test the government's ability to hold free and fair elections, which would ideally move the country closer to a more stable democracy.
Khin Zaw Win thinks that USDP's decision to use the image of the national hero, General Aung San (father of Aung San Su Kyi), is not a sincere campaign tactic, toying with memes based on the Hollywood films Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory and Inception.
Photo shared by Khin Zaw Win on Myanmar Meme Facebook group. Top text: So you people from USDP will use the General's photo to persuade voters? Bottom text: Tell me more about how you harassed citizens during the 100th anniversary of the General.
Photo shared by Khin Zaw Win on Myanmar Meme Facebook group. 1st Image which shows Myanmar President Thein Sein: Our party will use General's photo to persuade voters. 2nd Image: Why don't you use photos of U Nay Win and U Than Shwe? [translation note: General U Nay Win and General U Than Shwe are leaders of the previous military junta]
is skeptical about the army's statement that the “USDP and the army have the same interest for national politics and thus they will work together.”
Photo shared by Thihan Oo on Myanmar Meme Facebook group. Top text: (you) will lead politics for the nation? Bottom text: Tell me more about how only (your) relatives get well off and the whole country fell into poverty in the past 50 years.
Photo shared by Thihan Oo on Myanmar Meme Facebook group. Top Text: National Politics means politics for the whole nation. Bottom Text: Wrong! It means politics for the whole family.
Htoo Pyae Son thinks it is impossible for people to have faith in the current government.
Photo shared by Htoo Pyae Sone on Myanmar Meme Facebook group. 1st row: (Left) Master, you let me out of the bottle, I will grant you any one wish. (Right) President Thein Sein: Please build a highway between Myanmar and China. I have heart-disease, so it is difficult to take aeroplanes. 2nd row: (Left) Well, that path has too many mountains, so it is difficult to make roads. Ask another one. (Right) Make people love me so that I will win the next election without having to cheat. 3rd row: (Left) By the way, the highway you mentioned, you want it 4-lane or 6-lane? I will make sure to make the highway happen.
There are still 173 political prisoners in Myanmar including the students who were arrested last March. Khin Zaw Win posted a meme related to this issue:
Photo shared by Khin Zaw Win on Myanmar Meme Facebook group. 1st image: When I became the President, I released political prisoners. 2nd image: And during your time, you arrested more political prisoners who are still in jail.
He also highlighted the various reasons why people are being arrested:
Photo shared by Khin Zaw Win on Myanmar Meme Facebook group. 1st row: (Left) Where is my farmer farther? (Right) [We] put him in jail for resisting the confiscation of farm land. 2st row: (Left) Where is my labourer mother? (Right) [We] put her in jail for asking more minimum salary. 3rd row: (Left) Where is my journalist sister? (Right) [We] shut her up for writing bad things about us. 4th row: (Left) Where is my student brother? (Right) [We] put him in jail for boycotting. 5th row: (Left) [You] said this is democracy. (Right) well, this is fake-fake, son! 6th row: (Left) [You] said we are not going back. (Right) Don't you realize, even now we have not made any progress.
Recently, the Ministry of Telecommunication imposed a 5 percent tax on additions to individuals’ mobile-phone minutes, broadly upsetting the public. Subsequently, the parliament decided to suspend this new tax due to public complaints.
Yu Myat Aye conveys her position on Myanmar's telecommunications industry using a meme based on Martin Luther King's “I Have a Dream” speech.
Photo shared by Yu Myat Aye on Rage Comics and Memes (Burma) Facebook group. Top text: I have a dream. Bottom Text: One day the phone reception in Myanmar will be very good.
R Kar Phyoe has this to say about the issue by using an image of Suu Kyi:
Photo shared by R Kar Phyo on Myanmar Meme Facebook page. 1st image: At first they collect the tax this much. 2nd image: Now they collect this much. 3rd image: Now again, 5 % phone bill tax. 4th image: (top) If you all are really eager to collect tax this much, (bottom) how about collecting empty bottles and glass? [translation note: In Myanmar language the words “tax” and “empty” have the same sound.]