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Google Exec Urges Burma to Allow Free Speech

Google Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt gestures during an interactive session with group of students at a technical university in Rangoon, Burma, March 22, 2013.
Google executive chairman Eric Schmidt is urging Burma to allow free speech and private sector development of the country's primitive telecommunications infrastructure.

Schmidt told an audience of students in Rangoon Friday that Burma is right at the beginning of change and can surpass many other developing countries by developing its telecommunications technology.

He also said developing the Internet would prevent Burma from backtracking on reform efforts.

"The Internet will make it impossible to go back," Schmidt warned. "The Internet, once in place, guarantees that education and empowerment become the law and practice of your country."

Schmidt warned the group not to let the government control the Internet, saying politicians should understand that criticism speeds up development. He noted that just one mobile phone in a village can be used to record injustices.

Long isolated from the rest of the world by sanctions and repressive laws imposed by generals who ruled it for decades, Burma still has poor Internet availability, and connections are slow.

Schmidt's visit to Burma follows trips to Libya, Afghanistan and North Korea.