Digital rights in the post-coup Myanmar: Enabling factors for digital authoritarianism

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Nwet Kay Khine


This paper examines emerging characteristics of digital authoritarianism in Myanmar that negatively affect citizen’s freedom of expression. Analyzing the enabling factors of digital authoritarianism that come together with the digital development agenda of its reform years, this paper argues that the recent digital development has been fostered in three facets: (1) self-initiative of successive Myanmar governments under a new digital policy framework, (2) priorities driven by development projects between Myanmar and its development partners, and (3) rapid expansion of the digital market driven by private-public partnership model. In recent years, multi-dimensional reform has offered the current military regime and previous governments the opportunity to acquire higher digital capability for governing. Parts of the digital technology inherited from the reform period are double-edged swords that now serve the interest of the coup leaders. This paper argues that access to digital technology that came under the gown of advancing democracy and economic liberalization had aided the military’s effective control of freedom of expression in offline and online public spheres. The paper concludes that the regime’s practice of limited liberalism is a reality to be blamed for as it willingly embraces economic liberalization but still opposes liberal values deemed not fitting the ruling ideologies and interests of the power elites. Friends of Myanmar who encouraged the expansion of e-governance and commerce in the reform era eventually had to deal with the coup maker’s drastic authoritarian curve when Myanmar found itself better equipped with a newly devised sophisticated digital surveillance and censorship system.

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Khine, N. K. (2023). Digital rights in the post-coup Myanmar: Enabling factors for digital authoritarianism. Journal of Human Rights and Peace Studies, 9(2), 186–216. Retrieved from
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