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  HOME | World (Click here for more)

Myanmar Finalizing Law to Curb, Monitor Internet, Activists Say

YANGON -- 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 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 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 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.

The arrests came as United States President Joe Biden on Wednesday announced the approval of an executive order sanctioning Myanmar’s junta leaders, their business interests and their families.

The US will also impose “strong export controls” and freeze “US assets that benefit the Burmese government, while maintaining our support for healthcare, civil society groups, and other areas that benefit the people of Burma directly,” Biden said.

Myanmar’s military "must renounce the power taken and show respect for the will of the people, expressed in the elections on November 8," Biden said in a speech from the White House, while calling for the release of detainees.

“The military must relinquish the power it seized and demonstrate respect for the will of the people of Burma as expressed in their November 8th election.”

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Japan’s Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi also “discussed ways to strengthen cooperation with allies and partners to address the military coup in Burma,” US state department spokesperson Ned Price said.

Motegi and Blinken strongly condemned the Myanmar security forces for use of force on peaceful demonstrators on Tuesday, the Japanese government said.

The officials also expressed "grave concern" over the situation in Myanmar and urged the country's security forces to immediately halt violence against civilians.

The military government, led by General Min Aung Hlaing, says the coup was justified alleging voter fraud in the elections held in November, which the NLD swept, as it did in 2015.

There has been no news for several days of Suu Kyi, who is reportedly under house arrest in Naypyitaw. She has been charged with illegally importing communications equipment, punishable by three years in prison.

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