Myanmar’s military has floated a security law that would ban the use of VPN, under penalty of imprisonment and/or fines, leaving digital rights organisations concerned about the effects of further closing the country off digitally to the outside world.
The draft bill, dated January 13 and undergoing request for comments until January 28. Once after ruled in, it will subject VPN users to between one and three years inside, and fines of up to five million Myanmar Kyats ($2,800). The bill also bans the use of digital currency, under penalty of imprisonment for six months to a year, and the same fine used to deter VPN use.
It obligates service providers to provide the personal information of users like name, address and access history to authorities if requested. Similarly in the past, Norwegian mobile carrier Telenor left in September 2021 when the ruling government wanted to intercept calls carried on its network.
The newly installed Tatmadaw banned Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, prompting users in the country to rely on VPNs to retain access to their preferred online communication services.
Now the proposed VPN ban hit strong objections from both tech and commerce advocate organisations, thus allowing the country’s internet users to continue to communicate without changing platforms.
VPNs have long been a restricted technology in China, which also seeks to limit the material its citizens can access. Digital and human rights advocates fear a VPN ban will damage pro-democracy organisations, like the National Unity Government, and benefit the military.