Anyone in Myanmar caught using crypto or virtual private networks (VPN) could face up to three years in jail and hefty fines if the country’s military government passes a new cybersecurity law, reports The Register.
The bill was floated to government ministers on January 13. It intends to criminalize methods used by supporters of the country’s pro-democracy political class to organize, communicate, and support themselves.
Under the new rules:
- Using a VPN without a military license risks one to three years in jail and a 5 million Kyat ($2,800) fine.
- Transacting via crypto faces six months to one year in jail and a similar fine.
- Internet service providers must share citizen internet records if requested by authorities.
Following last year’s military coup, pro-democracy citizens have leveraged VPNs to evade surveillance and military-imposed internet censorship, which still blocks access to social media sites.
Myanmar’s government-in-exile, the National Unity Government (NUG), last month acknowledged stablecoin Tether as a means to transact outside of the junta-controled fiat currency, the Kyat.
The NUG is currently fundraising to finance its ambitions to regain control amid 11 months of deadly protests.
Myanmar’s second attempt at a crypto crackdown
Overall, the proposed rules represent revised efforts to outlaw parts of the internet. Myanmar’s central bank has prevented the country’s banks from servicing crypto since May 2020.
But this year’s version of the junta’s cybersecurity law places more stringent controls on internet activity.
One Myanmarese Reddit poster explained locals use VPNs to access banned social media (Facebook and Twitter) to “spread news about what’s happening in Myanmar,” particularly atrocities perpetuated by the reigning military government.
“We are also watching ads with [USA-based] VPNs to generate more money on revolution websites, where we can watch ads and donate the revenue directly to rebels who are fighting the dictatorship,” they said, adding that mobile data prices have surged “more than five times” since the coup as a result.
Last February’s attempt to pass a similar bill was met with objections from the Myanmar Federation of Chambers of Commerce and Industry.
Unconfirmed rumors of military council members already cracking down on those breaking the unratified laws are now spreading across the Southeast Asian nation, according to BBC Myanmar.
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