Norway-based Telenor Group, an international telecommunications company with extensive operations in much of Europe and Asia, sharply criticized a cyber security bill proposed by the leaders of Myanmar’s February 1 military coup in a statement issued Monday. The bill, which is expected to be formally promulgated this week, has been decried by many rights groups and international observers for rolling back online privacy and severely restricting Myanmar’s citizens’ access to the Internet.
Telenor has provided telecom services in Myanmar since 2013, at which time it says it obtained “binding commitments from the Myanmar authorities in relation to key regulations and laws that would update Myanmar’s telecom regulatory framework in line with international best practice, including respecting fundamental rights.” The company said the bill under consideration was being adopted in a? “very short and limited”? consultation process and “should be debated in Parliament to ensure that the law is fit for purpose and in line with the Constitution of Myanmar. ” In particular, Telenor stated:
We strongly object to the passing of the proposed Bill without addressing the concerns below:
– Human rights considerations:?The proposed Bill must give due consideration to fundamental human rights such as freedom of speech and expression in Myanmar and personal privacy and security concerns to people in Myanmar.
– Applicability of the proposed Bill:?Passing the proposed Bill during a state of emergency and granting such broad powers to a temporary administration is not appropriate.
– Execution of powers:?There must be transparency, legal certainty, due process and clear criteria for the exercise of powers and interventions, independent administration and independent oversight under the proposed Bill.
– Scope of proposed Bill:?The proposed Bill should not include powers which can be used to order Lawful Interception, which is covered by the Telecom Law. Further, laws governing personal data protection, electronic transactions and cyber security should be kept separate to allow for more comprehensive protection, governance and execution across all areas.
Publicization of the bill has heightened internal tension and anxiety within Myanmar, which Monday experienced its second lengthy Internet-access blackout in two days at the instigation of the military government. On Sunday, Telenor announced that it was no longer possible for it to disclose telecommunications directives for internet and other service interruptions that it received from the Myanmar authorities, citing fears for the security of its employees.