Myanmar Regime Extends Counterterrorism Law to Block Resistance Funding

By The Irrawaddy 17 March 2023

Myanmar’s regime has enhanced its Counterterrorism Law, allowing it to block digital resistance funding.

Under the rules added to the 2014 law on March 10, the regime can demand consumer data from communications and internet service providers, allowing it to intercept and cut the communications of those allegedly linked to revolutionary forces.

Pro-democracy forces established since the 2021 coup are mainly publicly funded, often through digital wallets from Myanmar’s diaspora.

Activists advocating for digital privacy said the regime intends to crack down on anyone supporting the resistance.

“The rule is not designed to protect the people from terrorism but intended to launch a crackdown on the revolution and anyone supporting it by labeling them as terrorists and prosecuting them under the Counterterrorism Law. The rule will enable the regime to monitor and investigate more effectively,” said Ma Wai Phyo Myint of Access Now, a global advocacy group for digital rights.

She said: “The regime is likely to conduct wider surveillance and make more prosecutions under the law. People should exercise greater caution.”

The regime has labeled the civilian National Unity Government and its armed wings as terrorist organizations.

The regime already carries out surveillance, online censorship and information control but the new regulations allow it to establish digital authoritarianism, say observers.

The junta can now intercept and cut off communications for up to 60 days with an extension if approved by its counterterrorism working committee.

NUG spokesman U Nay Phone Latt said: “The junta has enacted rules to justify its actions and say that it is legal. Military regimes intercept information. The junta wants to crush revolutionary forces.”

The rules say cellphone and network surveillance data can be used to target terrorism.

One lawyer said: “The junta wants to cut off assistance from citizens, the lifeblood of the revolution.”

The regime can now confiscate all assets of those prosecuted under the law and probe any associates.

The regime has started targeting people over social media posts critical of the regime or those complaining about living under military rule.