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.
“My decision was firm since I left my university in mid of February. My aunts are now giving me pressure to go back to my professor job. After seeing atrocities and mass killing of the junta, I no longer want to be part of the system they are ruling.”
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.
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.