Even before the coup in Myanmar, the military was preparing to strengthen surveillance mechanism by pressuring telecommunication companies to enforce intercept spyware. Although it was not confirmed whether the Ministry of Transport and Communication under the National League for Democracy government led by Daw Aung San Suu Kyi was involved to some extent in the implementation of these surveillance procedure, the budget amounted to nearly 3.4 million Euro were approved in 2019-2020 financial year for the purchase of spyware products and phone hacking technology. Since the coup, Myanmar military has been exerting control over the Internet service providers and telecommunication companies. The military’s order to intensify electronic surveillance systems lead to a recent speculation that Telenor, Norwegian multinational telecommunications would sell its business in Myanmar. Eventually, Telenor picked up a blacklisted company with bad track record for selling 100% of its share in Myanmar without giving any notice to its customers. This interview shares the voice of an activist who leads the movement for digital rights and the cancelling of Telenor’s sale to M1 group for the data security of 18 million users. The identity of the activist is kept under anonymity due to security concerns.
Life under Myanmar’s military dictatorship, which has existed in various guises since 1962, has been harsh, which is why people wish to send the military back into the barracks as soon as possible. On 8 November 2020 they chose the National League for Democracy (NLD), led by Aung San Suu Kyi, as the winning party in the country’s general election held every five years. Voter turnout was high in both Burmese-dominated areas in Central Myanmar and the other seven states representing the seven major ethnic groups: Kachin, Kayar, Kayin, Chin, Mon, Rakhine, and the Shan from the frontier areas bordering China, Thailand, Bangladesh, and India.
Even though the current crisis astonished most of us, it also came as no surprise. During the last decade, we have witnessed a densification of what Alex Demirovic calls “crises of denormalization”, i.e. crises that profoundly undermine the hegemonic neoliberal security dispositive. From the financial crisis in 2008–9, through to Europe´s so-called “migrant crisis” (in fact, a momentary collapse of Europe´s inhumane border regime), up to the climate crisis, world capitalism seems ever more prone to destroying its economic, social, and natural basis, and less and less capable of dealing with the consequences.
After 75 days of hard lockdown, the Philippines has had the longest community quarantine in the world to date. The lockdown, or enhanced community quarantine, although initially declared to last from 15 March until 15 April, has been extended twice: first for one more month up to 15 May, and then for two more weeks until 30 May. Starting in June, the country declared its intention to slowly open up again.
In the midst of the global COVID-19 response, governments around the world continue to curtail some fundamental civil rights to curb the unprecedented spread of the disease and limit its impact. As of May 2020, 84 countries have officially declared a state of emergency due to COVID-19. Others have not officially declared a state of emergency but have still suspended or restricted certain civil and political rights for temporary purposes in the name of public health; COVID-19 has prompted authoritarian tendencies amongst a variety of different types of governments—including many liberal democracies.
In May 2020, while the world continued to grapple with ways of dealing with the pandemic, UN Secretary General António Guterres spoke about the “tsunami of hate” targeting specific communities in the wake of the COVID-19 crisis. One such maelstrom, targeting the Muslim community, was seen taking place in India, with allegations of ‘corona jihad’ becoming widespread during the first phase of the COVID-19 lockdown in the country.
Jair Bolsonaro, Brazil’s current president, is known internationally for his far-right stances. He supports loosening gun control and frequently rants against human rights and “political correctness”. His motto of “God above all” pleases the more fundamentalist sectors of his evangelical base and he promotes a particular idea of the “good citizen”, often represented by a white middle-class Christian family man. His government employs a neoliberal economic agenda and is completely dismissive of environmental concerns. He was elected on a “tough on crime” platform full of false promises on how to solve the crime and violence problem in Brazil. His racist and sexist positions are well-known and add to the conservative positions of his government.