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Social media, Internet use soars in Myanmar as historic election nears

Myanmar’s national parliamentary election next month will bring many firsts to the Southeast Asian country.

Fifty-one million residents of the nation, formerly known as Burma, are expected to participate in the general election. The nationwide event is a first for a country that endured decades of military rule until 2011.

The elections represent a step forward for free speech in the country, as more residents embrace social media. Long shut off from the outside world, the country’s Internet use has rocketed from 2 percent of the population to 35 percent over the last several years.

Another first is the presentation of former political prisoner Nay Phone Latt as a regional candidate for the opposition party National League for Democracy (NLD).

Led by Nobel Peace Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi, the NLD won parliamentary majority in the general election of 1990, but the country’s military rulers refused to recognize the victory.

Correspondent Kira Kay of the Bureau for International Reporting spoke with Aung San Suu Kyi’s protege, Nay Phone Latt, about what the upcoming election could mean for democracy in Myanmar. You can watch their conversation in the video above.

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