Myanmar’s military Junta has informed executives of major telecom companies operating in the country that they can not leave Myanmar without permission, Reuters reports. The announcement reportedly comes from a person with direct knowledge of the matter following reports that Norway’s Telenor was considering selling its Myanmar business.
According to Reuters, a confidential order was issued by Myanmar’s Department of Posts and Telecommunications in mid-June which stated that senior executives, both foreigners and Myanmar nationals, must seek special authorization to leave the country.
According to the source, the major telecommunication companies were sent a second letter a week later giving them a deadline of 5 July to fully implement intercept technology they had previously been asked to install which would allow authorities to spy on calls, messages, and web traffic and to track users by themselves. Reuters state that the news agency has not seen the order.
Reuters’ multiple requests for comments from a spokesman for the military have not been answered and Reuters writes that the military has never commented on the electronic surveillance effort. Soon after seizing power in February, the Junta did however announce its aim to pass a cybersecurity bill that would require telecom providers to provide data when requested and remove or block any content deemed to be disrupting “unity, stabilization, and peace”. It also amended privacy laws to free security forces to intercept communications.
According to the source, the ban was set in place to pressure telecoms firms to finish activating the spyware technology, although the order itself does not specify a reason.
Reuters reports that Norway’s Telenor has declined to comment on the matter and the news agency has also not received any immediate response to requests for comment from Ooredoo, state-owned MPT, and Mytel, a joint venture between Vietnam’s Viettel and a Myanmar military-owned conglomerate.