Myanmar: Junta’s cyber law brings age of darkness

photo: SENTRO

As Myanmar’s military coup leaders escalate violent suppression of popular dissent and continue to arrest and detain hundreds of people without any due process, their planned cyber law will place the entire population under ongoing surveillance and eliminate freedom of speech.

The military released the planned law on 9 February with a spurious six-day “consultation” window. Workers across a range of key economic sectors in Myanmar are continuing to refuse to work, with strong public support.

Sharan Burrow, ITUC General Secretary, said: “This law will put all communications in Myanmar under the control of the military, with devastating consequences for democracy and human rights, and distastrous effects on Myanmar’s society and economy. Even questioning an action of the military junta online will lead to imprisonment and heavy fines. Any foreign companies which continue to operate in Myanmar will be subject to strict surveillance of everything they say and do and be forced to collaborate with the military in ways which open them and their employees to serious legal jeopardy outside of Myanmar.”

The law includes under its cyber-crime framework “written and verbal statement against any existing law”, a flagrant violation of the internationally recognised rights to freedom of association and assembly and other international human rights standards. That provision would also stop unions and employer organisations commenting on relevant laws at the International Labour Organization, in contravention of ILO procedures.

The law also includes “offences committed locally and internationally”, meaning that persons outside Myanmar who criticise the junta face the prospect of action by the Myanmar military. The freedom of speech controls even extend to the “internet of things”.

“One man, coup leader General Min Aung Hlaing, will soon sign this law, ushering in an age of darkness in Myanmar. Min Aung Hlaing and his fellow generals have two main objectives – to stifle any and all dissent in Myanmar, and to stop information about their repression of fundamental rights and liberties reaching the outside world. In that way they hope to keep control over the economy, so the military can keep looting the country to the tune of billions of dollars, for their own private benefit. The junta is telling the world that it respects human rights, but that is a blatant lie. The generals must be isolated, and their business profiteering stopped,” said Burrow.