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Bypassing Internet Censorship in Burma / Myanmar

Burma, also known as Myanmar, has been connected to the Internet since 2000 and uses a .mm as a top-level domain. However, Burma is also ruled by a repressive military junta that severely restricts access to the so called Myanmar Wide Web (MWW) – the term used to describe the Internet in the country.

In fact, Burma is on the RSF’s (Reporters sans frontiers or Reporters Without Borders) internet enemy list while the OpenNet Initiative has noted that the country substantially filters social, conflict/security and Internet tools and pervasively filters political content.

Internet Access and Usage in Burma

It’s estimated that there are over 400,000 internet users in Burma but Myanmar Teleport and the Ministry of Post and Telecommunication (MPT) are the only two Internet service providers (ISPs) in the country. However, most Burmese internet cafes use a variety of software in order to bypass the government’s proxy servers. Nevertheless and during the anti-government protests in 2007, the junta completely shut down all internet service – citing “a break in an underwater cable.”

What Technology Does Burma Use to Restrict Internet Access?

Burma’s military junta censors the internet using software, including software provided by Fortinet, a Nasdaq listed company based in Sunnyvale, California. Fortinet’s software is used to limit the access Burmese citizens have to both online content and email service providers.

However, how Fortinet’s software ended up in Burma is in dispute (the company claims it may have been sold by a third party) as selling the software directly would be in violation of US Government sanctions against the military junta.

What Websites are Blocked in Burma by Internet Censorship?

The Myanmar Wide Web (MWW) contains websites that have been prescreened and are monitored by official censors while access to free email services (which are harder to monitor) such as Yahoo! and Gmail are severely restricted.

How to Bypass the Burma Firewall

The simplest way to get full Internet access from within Burma is by using a VPN service located somewhere around the world, preferably in the United States or in Canada.

By using a foreign VPN service not only you will gain access to censored websites, your communications will also be protected by encryption. Buying a VPN service is very affordable and easy to use.

Internet Censorship in Burma: Further Reading
To learn more about Internet censorship in Burma, check out the Open Net Initiative’s report: “Internet Filtering in Burma in 2005: A Country Study“. In addition, articles about internet censorship in Burma have appeared in the New York Times, the Asia Times Online and the Bangkok Post.

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