07/03/2006, 00.00
MYANMAR
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Junta blocks Google and GMail

Burmese internet users slam Myanmar's military government for blocking free e-mails and internet messenger programmes like Google Talk and Gmail. Junta is amongst the worse offenders when it comes to internet censorship.

Bangkok (AsiaNews) – Myanmar's military government has again blocked free e-mails and internet messenger programmes like Google Talk and Gmail. According to internet users in Yangon, the new blackout began in late June.

Irrawaddy, an online paper published by Burmese exiles in Thailand, reports the regime has previously blocked Yahoo, Hotmail and Skype messenger programmes.

Myanmar's two national state-controlled internet services providers, Myanmar Posts and Telecommunications (MPT) and Myanmar Teleport Company (MTC), have adopted harsh regulations to silence opinions deemed "dangerous" for the regime's stability.

Internet users have reported that the MTC blocked their Google Talk and Gmail accounts using sophisticated methods.

Myanmar Teleport evolved from Bagan Cybertech, which was owned by Ye Naing Win, a son of former Prime Minister General Khin Nyunt, now detained on several criminal charges.

Along with China, Saudi Arabia and Iran, Myanmar "implements one of the world's most restrictive regimes of Internet control," said OpenNet Initiative (ONI), a research group that links Cambridge University, Harvard University and the University of Toronto.

In its report Internet Filtering in Burma in 2005: A Country Study, ONI reveals that 85 per cent of all sites that express support for democracy in the former Burma are successfully blocked by the extensive use of software manufactured in the West.

US-based company Fortinet is the junta's main supplier of filters. The company, which manufactures a special programmed called Fortiguard, has defend itself claiming that it respects international agreements signed in Washington and that it has no commercial ties to countries under embargo.

Estimates put the number of Burmese online at around 30,000 users. Messenger programmes like Google Talk are very popular among local internet users, and not only for communication with the outside world. For one young man in Yangon, some users rely on the net to study and obtain diplomas.

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