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Thursday, 20 January, 2000, 13:40 GMT
Burma clamps down on web

pagoda burma Burma has strict controls over internet use


By regional analyst James Miles

The Burmese authorities have banned the country's internet users from issuing material of a political nature.

Burmese television said the country's only authorised internet service provider, Myanmar Post and Telecommunications, had outlawed the use of sites which were - as it put it - detrimental to government policies.

The regulations will come as no surprise in a country that has been among the most hostile in Asia towards the internet revolution.


Government control
Owning a computer without a licence means years in jail
Government decides on what is detrimental
Anti-government material on websites outside Burma
Burma has lagged behind even some of Asia's most authoritarian countries such as China and Vietnam in its embrace of the internet.

The issuing of tough regulations on internet use by the Burmese Government coincides with snail pace moves by Myanmar Post and Telecommunications to extend access to the general public.

At present, government departments and authorised businesses are the main users.

A so-called cybercafe opened last year in the capital Rangoon, but its computers offered no access to the internet.

Burma is clearly determined that as it bows to the inevitable and allows the new technology in, there will be none of the unwanted political side-effects that have been conspicuous in neighbouring China for example, where dissidents now routinely use the internet to exchange information and access news that is censored by the Chinese media.

Rules

The new regulations ban the posting of any material on the internet deemed by the Burmese Government to be harmful, directly or indirectly, to its policies or security.

Internet accounts are only to be used by those who have been officially granted them: a rule that could jeopardise the development of internet cafes.

Internet users are also banned from creating web pages without official permission. And no material relating to politics is allowed to be posted.

Anti-government activists in Burma, however, smuggle information outside the country where it is posted on websites maintained by Burmese exiles.

And the government itself runs a website containing mainly information for tourists and businesspeople.

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