Myanmar junta increases pressure on telecom firms

Myanmar junta increases pressure on telecom firms

An order from Myanmar’s Posts and Telecommunications Department (PTD) allegedly insists that senior executives of major telecoms firms, both foreigners and Myanmar nationals, must seek special authorisation to leave the country.

According to Reuters, the order was made in mid-June but appears to have come to light only now. The news service adds that in late June telecom companies were told by letter that they had until yesterday – 5 July – to fully implement intercept technology. The military junta wants to use this technology to monitor calls, messages and web traffic and to track users. 

Reuters says it has not seen the orders and the military has not commented on this allegation. However, the move does seem linked to the military’s impatience to ensure that it can monitor the country’s population more effectivity.

A number of laws have already been passed involving cybersecurity and amending privacy laws to allow interception of communications. In addition internet access was cut when the military coup took place in early February and has still not been fully re-established. Telecom companies have also been receiving regular lists of websites and activist phone numbers to block.

It’s not clear how operators like Telenor, Ooredoo, MPT and Mytel will respond to this implied threat to their senior staff or, for that matter, how much surveillance technology is already in place; one order to telecom and internet service providers to install intercept spyware dates back to late last year – before the coup took place.

As we noted yesterday, Telenor has dampened speculation indicating an imminent sale, stating that its subsidiary in the country will continue to provide services in Myanmar. It added that it will examine “various alternatives” as the situation in the market unfolds. However, this previously profitable unit is making a loss at present.