Myanmar Military Government Proposes to Jail Digital Currency and VPN Users

Myanmar’s military-ruled government is proposing to enact laws that will see users of virtual private networks (VPN) and digital currencies being jailed for up to three years. In addition, offenders will be made to pay fines of up to $2,800.

Draft Bill Open for Comments

Myanmar’s military-ruled government is proposing to enact a law that outlaws the use of virtual private networks (VPN) and digital currencies in that country. Once enacted, violators of the new law not only face jail time but will be made to pay a fine.

According to a report published by The Register, individuals caught using VPNs will face a possible jail sentence of between one and three years. In addition, offenders may also be asked to pay a fine of $2,800 or five million Myanmar Kyats. Digital currency users, on the other hand, face a minimum jail term of six months and a maximum of up to one year. They will also be liable to pay fines of up to $2,800.

Besides targeting digital currency and VPN users, the military government’s proposed regulations will compel service providers to provide the personal information of users when requested to do so by authorities.

A draft bill signed by Soe Thein, the permanent secretary of the Military’s Transport and Communications Ministry, is currently open for comments. As suggested in the report, citizens will be allowed to comment on the draft until January 28.

Proposed Law Criticized

Reacting to the proposals, Alp Toker, the director of Netblocks — an internet monitoring company — is quoted in the report criticising the military government’s attempts to include provisions that were previously rejected by industry and civil society. The director said:

The proposed bill is draconian, even by the standards of the Burmese [Myanmar] military. The first version of the bill proposed in February 2021 was dropped after industry and civil society united to push back, but the military has been set on getting its way.

Toker argued that VPNs have been one of the ways Myanmar has stayed in touch with the rest of the world after the country’s military rulers that took power in February 2021, blocked social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

While Myanmar military rulers are likely to succeed in enacting the proposed laws The Register report quotes Toker warning that this decision is likely to backfire on the government.

“These are certain to have a chilling effect on political speech and human rights, but ultimately this is only going to turn public sentiment further against military rule.”

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