Conflicts & War

Myanmar finalizing law to curb, monitor internet, activists say

Yangon, Myanmar, Feb 11 (efe-epa).- The military junta in Myanmar is finalizing a cybersecurity law that will allow it to carry out internet blackouts, ban content and demand data from users, about 160 Myanmar nonprofits reported.

In a joint statement on Wednesday, the civil society organizations indicated that the proposed law violates digital rights, privacy and other human rights, while stressing that the military government has no legal authority to legislate.

“If this unlawful action by the current military regime is not denounced strongly in time, military oppression over the country will be long lived,” the signatories said.

The nonprofits added that the bill is designed to “oppress those who are against its rule” and “to restrict the mobilization and momentum of online resistance.”

One of the signatory NGOs, Myanmar ICT for Development Organization (MIDO), said on Twitter that the military government had sent the proposed legislation to several telecommunications companies in the country, which would enable them to increase censorship and surveillance.

“Art 30 & 31 from chapter 9 of the “bill” states, online platforms (FB, Twitter..etc) to keep user’s details (IP, phone, ID, address, usage data, and other necessary data as directed by the ministry) for 3 yr and give it to them when asked,” said MIDO, which works to protect digital rights in Myanmar.

The military restricted the internet for several hours during the coup it carried out on Feb. 1 and also for more than 24 hours over the weekend before the start of protests against the junta.

Three days after the coup, authorities also blocked access to Facebook and Twitter, the platforms most used by critics of the military junta, although many users are using virtual private networks (VPN) that allow access to restricted pages.

Anti-coup protesters formed smaller gatherings across the country’s main cities Thursday as part of the ongoing civil disobedience movement against the military junta.

Since the military seized power on Feb. 1, protesters had gathered en-masse in each city and were then met with a concentration of security forces. On Thursday they had dispersed into smaller groups in key areas of the various cities.

Employees from many civil service sectors, including teachers, bank staff, engineers and lawyers, organized their own marches, as did many ethnic groups.

Hundreds of people also protested outside the Chinese embassy in Yangon, accusing Beijing of supporting the military junta that took power in a coup last Monday.

Police stood by, but did not intervene.

Tens of thousands of people have taken to the streets in the country since Saturday to voice their rejection of the military government, demand the release of deposed leader Aung San Suu Kyi and the rest of the detainees and that the military respect the election results.

The authorities have used water cannons, rubber bullets and live ammunition against some protesters to quell the demonstrations.

A young woman was shot in the head at a protest in Naypyitaw on Tuesday afternoon. She was rushed to a local hospital where she remains in critical condition.

Late Wednesday night, the junta launched a new wave of arrests against elected politicians, including figures close to Suu Kyi.

The authorities arrested Kyaw Tint Swe, a close aide to Suu Kyi who served as minister for the Office of the State Counsellor under her, and four other politicians linked to her National League for Democracy (NLD), a party spokesperson said on Facebook.

Toe Naing Mann, son of former General Shwe Mann, who held important positions of power during the last military junta, was also arrested, the detainee’s wife confirmed to EFE.

At least 220 people have been arrested since the military seized power, including 20 who were subsequently released, the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners said Thursday.

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