Myanmar’s junta has expanded its ability to target those who seek its removal from power by sharpening the teeth of law that it’s already used to jail hundreds of people since seizing power in a coup d’etat two years ago.
The addendum to the Anti-Terrorism Law issued on March 1 allows authorities to eavesdrop on suspects, confiscate their assets and take other steps to crush the opposition, experts say.
The junta will use the amended law to enable its forces to commit atrocities and brand any actions by rebels with the People’s Defense Force or other groups as terrorism, said Than Soe Naing, a political analyst.
“The junta is trying to make its crimes – such as burning down villages, confiscating civilian properties and killing their cattle for food – acceptable under their laws,” he said.
The provisions were added to the Anti-Terrorism Law that was enacted in 2014 under then-President Thein Sein’s quasi-civilian government. The changes – 20 chapters and 120 articles – were published in the junta’s Myanmar Alinn newspaper in a series of segments beginning on March 10, and signed by junta Interior Minister Lt. Gen. Soe Htut.
One chapter details the confiscation and control of assets belonging to terrorist groups or individuals and organizations associated with them. Another chapter spells out how authorities can take control of a suspect’s assets as part of an investigation, including their bank accounts.
Another provision adds protections for witnesses of the prosecution, including the ability to testify via video conferencing to avoid facing the accused in the courtroom.
Six articles in Chapter 14 provide authorities with sweeping new powers over digital information, including the ability to intercept, monitor, cut off and restrict communications, as well as to pinpoint the location of a suspect. Such information can now be used in investigations into terrorism or the financing of terrorism, and may be submitted as evidence in a court of law.
An IT technician with an opposition group who declined to be named told RFA that while government agencies around the world monitor telecommunications as part of criminal investigations, in Myanmar they are only monitored to investigate the junta’s opposition.
“You might be under surveillance unknowingly. If someone transfers some money to us for some reason, it could be confiscated without us even knowing,” he said.
“One must bear in mind that even if you are not involved in anti-junta activities, you may be among those under surveillance by the military regime.” [RFA/JS]