Myanmar's digital dictatorship

Two years of dangerous occupation: international community must protect rights in Myanmar

Read in Burmese

Today, February 1, marks two years since the Myanmar military initiated a deadly coup, ripping the country out of democratic transition. The bloody invasion is being systematically strengthened through authorities’ tightening stranglehold over the nation’s digital spheres and expanding surveillance infrastructure. After more than 700 days, this menacing control must be put to an end.

Through a joint statement, Access Now and civil society actors from across the globe are demanding the international community publicly condemn the Myanmar junta’s brutal violations of human rights, and support efforts to destroy the military’s complex surveillance infrastructure designed to track and target the resistance.

“As the military ensures the upcoming election will be anything but democratic, it is also building a terrifying surveillance infrastructure with the support of private businesses,” said Wai Phyo Myint, Asia Pacific Counsel at Access Now. “The thunderous silence from the international community, bolstered by private industry compliance, is compounding the suffering of millions.”

The military’s surveillance infrastructure is designed to track and target the people’s resistance. Since February 2021, the junta has managed to consolidate control over digital spaces and data by facilitating the sale of the last two foreign-controlled telecommunication providers, Telenor and Ooredoo — in turn, activating intercept technologies that monitor communications. This domination is further solidified through ongoing internet shutdowns, and by compelling residents to surrender personal details to the military by the forced registration of SIM cards and unique IMEI numbers that can be used to gather location information or set the stage for false accusations of financing terrorism leading to the deactivation of mobile payment accounts

As outlined in the joint statement, the international community must:

  • Publicly condemn human rights violations committed by the junta and supportive businesses;
  • Take further steps to enforce and tighten measures aimed at restricting the sale and supply of dual-use surveillance technologies to Myanmar; and
  • Provide tangible support to the people of Myanmar, including human rights defenders, civil society, and journalists who face immense risk for their work.

Meanwhile, businesses must use heightened due diligence to ensure that their products and services are not being used to commit human rights violations, while investing significant resources into genuine public consultation when developing safeguards and implementing remedies for harms committed in Myanmar.

“The international community has a cornerstone role to play in dismantling Myanmar’s dictatorship by finally holding the military to account, and directly confronting the private actors facilitating human rights violations across the country,” said Raman Jit Singh Chima, Senior International Counsel and Asia Pacific Policy Director at Access Now. “This global inaction encourages other authoritarian regimes to follow the junta’s playbook, and grants businesses the go-ahead to continue profiting from their dealings with the military, evading any form of liability.”

Read the full statement in English and Burmese.