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Myanmar’s cyber security law threatens democracy and labour movement

18 February, 2021Myanmar’s military regime has introduced a draft cyber security law that gives them sweeping power to suppress and control freedom of information, as workers continue to protest against the coup across the country.

Approximately one week after the military coup, the self-installed state administrative council requested internet service providers to give feedback on a draft cyber security law by 15 February.

The hasty introduction of the restrictive law is an attempt to stifle the fast-growing civil disobedience movement across the country. Authorities have cut internet services on a number of times and have temporarily suspended social media.

Once adopted, the vaguely worded law will criminalize any person “creating misinformation and disinformation with the intent of causing public panic, loss of trust or social division on a cyber space”. A conviction carries imprisonment for not more than three years or a fine not more than 10 million kyats (US$7,525) or both.

Khaing Zar, president of Industrial Workers’ Federation of Myanmar (IWFM), says:

“The draft cyber security law is a serious threat to Myanmar’s democracy and labour movement. It violates the very principle of democracy that citizens must be able to access to free information.

“Trade unions cannot function and continue to organize workers under such a restrictive cyber security law, we urge the government to restore democracy and release parliamentarians before deliberating the law.”

Protests against the military rule in Myanmar continue, with hundreds of thousands of workers across the country participating in peaceful civil disobedience. Trade unions play a vocal and visible role, and IndustriALL affiliate IWFM has released a statement calling on in Myanmar’s garment industry to respect workers’ fundamental rights of freedom of association, expression and peaceful assembly.

“The ongoing demonstrations in Myanmar are critical to pushing back military intrusion into fundamental rights and freedoms that are essential to ensuring a stable environment for industrial relations. The future of the Myanmar garment industry depends upon a peaceful and sensible solution to the current political crisis as the looming threat to democracy is also a threat to the business environment for foreign investors.

“Myanmar’s workers are exercising universally protected human rights to assemble and peacefully protest the military coup and call for a return to the civilian-led government elected by the people.”

IndustriALL Global Union general secretary Valter Sanches says:

“The cyber law effectively eliminates free speech in Myanmar and hands over control of communications to the military, which is wholly unacceptable. We stand in solidarity with the workers who are peacefully pushing back against the military in their fight to restore democracy.”