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Internet Users Face More Restrictions

A children computer user at internet cafe in downtown Yangon browses the online.

"I had to contact my friends abroad and ask them to open a G-mail account for me as I couldn’t do it over here," said a student at Dagon University.

She added that most Internet users have faced similar difficulties since March.

Yahoo and Hotmail are banned in the military-run country. G-mail can be accessed through proxy servers although it is also banned.

The Burmese military government is notorious for controlling the flow of information into and out of the country.

"Burma leads the dishonor roll," said the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), a leading media watchdog, in its April report. CPJ named Burma as the worst violator of Internet freedom in the world.

Internet cafés which get caught helping customers open G-mail accounts by running bypass programs are to be closed down, said the owner of an Internet café in Mayangone Township in Rangoon.

"Our café only helps people we know when we are asked to open an email account," he said. "We don’t help strangers because we will be in trouble if the authorities find out."

The military regime has blocked the well-known Google research engine and its Google mail service since June 2006.

The regime has been constructing a "silicon valley," called Yadanabon Cyber City, in Maymyo in Mandalay Division since June 2006. According to state-run newspapers, the facility is intended to serve as the sole nationwide Internet Service Provider (ISP) in Burma.

One computer technician said, "the Cyber City will likely be used to control Internet users and the flow of information".

"The government is losing its cyber battle because of Google high technology, but it has kept trying to block access to popular e-mail services, including G-mail," he said, adding that the government can’t eradicate e-mail completely, but can slow it down and shut it down temporarily.

"It is believed that the junta is concentrating on Yadanabon Cyber City in preparation for controlling and monitoring the flow of information before the 2010 election," he added.

Burma currently has three ISPs : state-run Myanmar Posts and Telecommunications (MPT), which operates Myanmar Info-tech; semi-government-owned Myanmar Teleport (formerly Bagan Net); and Hanthawaddy National Gateway.

Speaking to The Irrawaddy in September, a senior member of the Myanmar Computer Professionals Association said that Hanthawaddy National Gateway—Burma’s newest ISP, which was launched in July 2008—is expected to become the largest ISP in the country.

He said it receives technical assistance from Alcatel Shanghai Bell Company, which is represented in Burma by Tay Za, a wealthy tycoon and close associate of senior leaders of Burma’s military junta.

Hanthawaddy National Gateway is to be linked to the Yadanabon teleport in Mandalay and will provide access to subscribers in every state and division except Rangoon Division. It is currently only available to military officials, he said.

Src: Myanmar ISP

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