Friday, February 12, 2010

Restrictions on Internet Cafes in Sittwe Increase

2/11/2010

Sittwe : The Special Police Department has imposed many restrictions on internet cafes in Sittwe to prevent users from sending information or photos to exiled media, said Zaw Ko, a student from Sittwe University.

"Police officials ordered the internet cafes in Sittwe to open a separate private room for operators of the cafes to control internet users. In the separate room, one computer set would be linked with all the computers in the shop. Whenever a customer used internet at the cafe, all their emails and address would appear on the computer screen. At that time, the operator would write the email address and circumstances of the email in his daily notebook," the student said.

Police officers come to the internet cafes in Sittwe every night to see the log and registration books.

"Most internet users know of the authority's restrictions on internet users in Sittwe. Because of that, users avoid sending information to exiled media through internet cafes in Sittwe. We use the internet in Sittwe for normal purposes," he said.

One young internet cafe owner in Sittwe confirmed, saying, "Our business will be damaged if we do not follow the police order. So we do it every day and show the record to the police officers. If we kept the record secret, they would take our operating permit from us."

In Sittwe, there are six internet cafes, and all are implementing the authority's system to track internet users out of fear of retribution by the police.

Another internet user in Sittwe said, "Every internet shop prohibits users from opening unnecessary websites, especially exiled media websites including the BBC, RFA, and Narinjara. The cafe owners have posted on notice boards which websites are blocked by the authority."

According to student sources, many internet users in Sittwe follow the cafes' prohibitions on the websites in order to avoid punishment by authorities.

In Sittwe, the price of internet is only 500 kyats per hour, but many people who would use the internet rarely visit the cafes in Sittwe.

Zaw Ko said, "Most internet users in Sittwe are university students, but the students at present do not visit the internet cafes in Sittwe due to such restrictions by the authority. Most internet shops in Sittwe are losing profits from the lack of customers."

It is estimated that under normal conditions, 20 internet cafes would be needed in Sittwe to meet the needs of current internet users in the city, but only six are operating because the restrictions have caused a fall in business, said the internet cafe owner.

Ref: Narinjara 

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