Communications Ministry Discusses Amending Article 66(d) of Telecommunications Law

By Pe Thet Htet Khin 11 April 2017

NAYPYIDAW — The Ministry of Transport and Communications is holding intra-ministry discussions to amend Article 66(d) of Burma’s controversial Telecommunications Law, said director general U Soe Thein of the communications department.

“We can’t scrap the law. But, the law does not grant bail and this creates problems for defendants. We are having internal discussions on how to proceed,” the director general told reporters at an annual ministry press conference in Naypyidaw on Monday.

The telecommunications law was enacted under former President U Thein Sein’s government in October 2013 to regulate private telecom operators, said permanent secretary of the ministry U Win Khant.

The law has been and still is at times applied to stifle political dissidents, and has also been increasingly abused by individuals for personal retaliation against alleged defamation. The number of people who have been jailed under Article 66 (d) during the new National League for Democracy-led administration reached eight last week.

“The existing cases are due to hate speech. The law was in fact meant to facilitate the development of the telecom industry and telecom operators,” said U Win Khant.

Article 66(d) states that whoever uses a “telecommunication network to extort, threaten, obstruct, defame, disturb inappropriately influence or intimidate,” on conviction can be “punished with imprisonment for a term extending to a maximum of three years, and shall be liable to fine or both.”

Translated from Burmese by Thet Ko Ko