Myanmar’s Government, which stormed to power after a military coup, cracks down on cryptocurrencies

Myanmar cracks down on cryptocurrencies
Myanmar cracks down on cryptocurrencies. Pic Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Key Takeaways

  • The military administration of Myanmar is bringing a law to ban cryptocurrencies and VPN
  • The Government accuses ousted National Unity Government of using cryptos to fund revolts

YEREVAN ( The State Administration Council (SAC), which currently Governs Myanmar (Burma) following the February 2021 coup d’état, is reportedly going after cryptocurrencies. 

According to a Twitter post by activist Aung Kyaw Moe, the junta regime has floated a cyber security law that would prevent citizens from holding and trading in cryptocurrencies and digital assets. In addition, the new law will also bar people from using virtual private networks (VPN) 

Aung Kyaw Moe is the advisor to the Ministery of Human Rights of the National Unity Government (NUG), a Burmese government in exile formed by the Committee Representing Pyidaungsu Hluttaw (CRPH), a group of elected lawmakers and members of parliament ousted in the 2021 coup.

Moe and his colleagues have since declared the SAC, chaired by Min Aung Hlaing, the commander-in-chief of Defence Services, as a terrorist organization. In response, the council, comprising nine military officers and ten civilians, has declared NUG illegal and has banned its activities in the Southeast Asian nation. 

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Myanmar’s new Telecom Act bans cryptocurrencies

According to The Register, the permanent secretary of the transport and communications ministry Soe Thein signed the draft bill on January 13. Thien is also the incumbent chairman of the Union Election Commission. The Government is currently requesting comments about the merits of the bill from relevant agencies before turning it into law. The deadline for comments is January 28. 

Once adopted, users of digital currencies will face imprisonment ranging from six months to one year. In addition, the authorities can impose fine crypto users to the tune of five million Myanmar Kyats ($2,800).

Myanmar brings new law to ban VPN and cryptocurrencies
The new anti-cryptocurrency law of Myanmar. Credit: Aung Kyaw Moe

The bill also bans the use of virtual private networks (VPN). Violators could face jail time between one and three years. In addition, they will have to pay the same fine imposed on cryptocurrency traders.

The law also mandates service providers to submit users’ personal information to the military leadership. The information will include their names, addresses, and access history. 

As a result of a similar policy of the authorities, the Norwegian mobile carrier Telenor left Myanmar in September 2021. 

“It has become clear to us that our continued presence would require Telenor Myanmar to activate intercept equipment (for the use of Myanmar authorities) which is subject to Norwegian and EU sanctions. Activation of such equipment is therefore unacceptable for Telenor Group. … this makes a continued presence in Myanmar impossible for Telenor Group,” 

the company announced.

The military rule has also banned social media, including Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter in the country.

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Cryptocurrencies emerged as a symbol of resistance in Myanmar 

Myanmar’s Central Bank banned digital currencies long before the coup. However, digital assets have since become a symbol of hope for the ousted Government. Digital assets of all forms faced the hammer on 15 May 2020. The National Unity Government (NUG) has turned to cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin (BTC), Litecoin (LTC), Ethereum (ETH) to fund a possible revolution against the junta regime.

According to military leadership, anti-Government groups have received funding in digital assets. The junta regime has declared the NUG as a terrorist group, which may explain the latest act.

“It is a weapon. It is a beacon of hope against a corrupt leadership. People are becoming more aware of how things work and I hope that, soon, a fair number will realise that so much more could be done, including putting in the effort to overthrow the military government, which the majority of the population despises,” 

Thai PBS world quoted an unidentified trader saying. 

As cryptocurrencies gain wider acceptance, the latest ban proves the vulnerability of Governments and traditional banking systems. 

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