Parliament Approves Funds for Internet Oversight Body

By Moe Moe 21 March 2018

NAYPYITAW — The Union Parliament on Monday approved more than 6.4 billion kyats (US$7.8 million) to monitor the internet for people who use it to “harm the stability” of the country.

U Thant Sin Maung, Union minister for transport and communications, said a monitoring body had been formed to identify those who instigate political instability on the Internet and social media and that the money would be spent on monitoring the Internet.

In November, the Lower House approved a proposal granting the government power to monitor the internet and social media for misuse.

The proposal, from National League for Democracy lawmaker Daw Yin Min Hlaing, urges the Union government to look for uses of information technology that may harm the character and morality of youth and disrupt tranquility.

“An agency formed in accord with the law will monitor and identify, with the use of advanced technologies, cases that harm the stability and tranquility of the country,” U Thant Sin Maung told Parliament.

The Social Media Monitoring Team was formed with the approval of the Union government on Feb. 7, according to the minister.

At a meeting in early March, the cabinet approved 6.462 billion kyats from the emergency funds of the 2017-18 fiscal year to purchase hardware and software for monitoring purposes.

The Irrawaddy contacted several directors of the Ministry of Transport and Communications for details, but all said they knew no more than what the minister had said in Parliament.

U Thant Sin Maung also said that his ministry had drafted a cyber law with the help of international experts.

“We have drafted a cyber law together with experts from the EU. The draft law aims to prevent rather than punish cyber crimes. It is for the protection of people,” U Ye Naing Moe, director of the ministry’s National Cyber Security Center, told The Irrawaddy.

“[Monitoring] will not impact ordinary internet users but target those who spread hate speech and slander,” said Ko Thiha, an IT technician.

Translated from Burmese by Thet Ko Ko.