Myanmar, formerly known as Burma, lived for decades under the rule of the armed forces. Democracy began, and its people were content. Civilians voted to maintain democracy, but the military disagreed. A violent coup has forced Myanmar into a persistent state of unrest, and the military’s overreaching control aims to censor the country’s citizens who oppose them by shutting down internet access. NetBlocks is reporting that internet access has been filtered for forty eight days and counting.
Wait, What Happened Here in Simple Terms?
A legitimate election showed the people of Myanmar’s will was for the National League for Democracy, led by Aung San Suu Kyi, to run the country. Aung San Suu Kyi has a history of being a polarizing figure. She’s been putting her safety on the line for decades in an effort to bring democracy to Myanmar, spending 15 of those years under house arrest. Her efforts for democracy earned her a Nobel Peace Prize in 1991, with many surrounding countries recognizing her efforts as legitimate and the military based regime as a violent farce.
Myanmar’s military backed the opposition party. In response to democracy’s landslide victory, the armed forced wrongfully claimed voter fraud was responsible for the election results. When the commission in charge investigated the allegations, no supporting evidence was uncovered.
The coup, unsatisfied with the legitimate election results, stormed through Myanmar’s parliament. Most key members of the National League for Democracy have been detained or placed under house arrest. The leader of Myanmar’s armed forces, Min Aung Hlaing, has declared himself as the seat of power in Myanmar.
Now that the military has installed itself as the de facto government of Myanmar, their first act was to abuse their power in declaring a year long state of emergency. This means that, for a year, Myanma and Burmese people are essentially living under martial law.
The military claims its intention is to represent the people by forming a more legitimate democracy and that they will hold another free and fair election next year. Citizens of the country don’t believe this, and they significantly distrust the military.
Myanmar’s military has a history of rampantly genocidal behavior, displacing about three quarters of a million Rohingya people and killing thousands. The Rohingya are Myanmar’s Muslim minority. Many escaped to Bangladesh, a secular country that happens to be majority Muslim. The Rohingya felt less vulnerable there, as the country was more receptive to their beliefs.
It is important to remember that the majority religion in Myanmar is Buddhism. This means that, according to their faith, one of the five precepts forbids killing or harming living things. The majority of the country prefers democracy as it is peaceful, and in the past, monks have peacefully protested and opposed the military. Military rule is contrary to the beliefs of the majority of people who live in Myanmar.
People want peace in their democracy, but their steadfastness means they’re willing to put themselves in harm’s way to achieve peace.
Threats of Violence by the Military
The military’s self imposed state of emergency has given them tremendous power. Although the state of emergency was put in place specifically to prevent protests and mass gatherings, the exact opposite came to pass. Tens of thousands of citizens swarmed Yangon, Myanmar’s largest city. They blocked traffic with their cars. Workers announced stoppages. The people are demanding the release of the true winner of the election and openly opposing the military junta.
Initially, these protests were non-violent. On the night of day 3, the military brought firepower. Gunshots were heard after curfew. At least one woman died as a result of a fatal gunshot wound to the head. After weeks of violent crackdowns the death toll now stands at 512 protestors who lost their lives. The junta cannot control the population, and is working on new ways to prevent the spread of information and news out of Myanmar.
Crackdowns on Internet Privacy in Myanmar
Myanmar’s internet went dark. The military hasn’t given a reason as to why the country’s connection to the outside world and to each other was severed, but this development comes in line with the military’s plan to enact cybersecurity laws that would allow them to detain and prosecute critics of the coup’s rule. Prominent actors and entertainers vocalizing opposition online have been detained, accused to inciting the protests.
Speculation seems to suggest that the internet is working on creating a giant firewall that would prevent the people of Myanmar from ever accessing the free and open internet again while giving the military full access to their heavily restricted internet activity. This censorship is a means of control to prevent the people from taking back their democracy.
Net Privacy is More Important Now Than Ever
The people of Myanmar have every right to stand up against the junta. The military has no business monitoring or restricting their speech, or preventing them from accessing or reporting news from inside the country. A Stealth VPN will allow people in and around Myanmar to safely access the unrestricted internet. TorGuard VPN is confirmed working for users in Myanmar, at least those fortunate enough to find an internet access point..