Myanmar draft cybersecurity law adds to protests over coup

Buddhist monks display pictures of deposed leader Aung San Suu Kyi during a street march against the military coup in Mandalay, Myanmar on Friday, Feb. 12, 2021. Myanmar's coup leader used the country's Union Day holiday on Friday to call on people to work with the military if they want democracy, a request likely to be met with derision by protesters who are pushing for the release from detention of their country's elected leaders. (AP Photo)
Buddhist monks display pictures of deposed leader Aung San Suu Kyi during a street march against the military coup in Mandalay, Myanmar on Friday, Feb. 12, 2021. Myanmar's coup leader used the country's Union Day holiday on Friday to call on people to work with the military if they want democracy, a request likely to be met with derision by protesters who are pushing for the release from detention of their country's elected leaders. (AP Photo) (Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

BANGKOK – A draft cybersecurity law due to be implemented in Myanmar has raised protests that it will be used to quash dissent rather than protect privacy.

Human rights advocates issued statements Friday urging the country’s military leaders to drop the plan and end internet disruptions that have intensified since a Feb. 1 coup.

The draft law shows the military’s intent to “permanently undermine internet freedom in the country,” said Matthew Bugher, head of the Asia program for the group Article 19, which issued a statement condemning the plan along with the Open Net Association and the International Commission of Jurists.

Internet service providers and others were given until Monday, Feb. 15, to respond to the proposed law.

“It is telling that controlling cyberspace is one of the top priorities of the Myanmar military, which seized power through an illegitimate coup d’etat only last week,” said Sam Zarifi, the International Commission of Jurists' secretary general.

“The military is used to having total power in Myanmar, but this time they have to face a population that has access to information and can communicate internally and externally,” he said.

The military's seizure of power and arrest of national leader Aung San Suu Kyi and other members of her National League for Democracy party have sparked massive peaceful protests across the country, despite efforts by authorities to enforce order by disrupting internet services.

That has put internet service providers and other telecommunications companies in a bind.