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Internet cafes ordered to keep tabs on customers

(Mizzima News/IFEX) - In a renewed attempt at putting Internet users in Burma on a leash, the chairman of the Pegu Township Peace and Development Council (TPDC) ordered Internet cafe owners in Pegu to keep records of personal profiles of Internet users.

TPDC Chairman Aung Swe Myint summoned Internet cafe owners to his office on 5 February 2010 and told them to maintain a record of Internet users, including their names and addresses, as ordered by "higher authorities."

"We had to sign a paper acknowledging the order. He mentioned it was for security reasons," an Internet cafe owner told Mizzima. Earlier, cafe owners had to note down the names of users only. Now they have to record their addresses too. Most of their customers are young students, another Internet cafe owner said. "However, one is not sure if the addresses given are real. Nevertheless, we have to note down whatever our customers tell us. The new regulation is another blow to Internet freedom," he said.

There are over 20 Internet cafes in Pegu. Most of the cafes use generators as they receive electricity on a rotational basis. They charge customers Kyat 400 (approx. US$62) per hour.

"We don't use the Internet for business purposes but for acquiring knowledge," an Internet user told Mizzima. Burma Media Association (BMA) Vice-Chairman Zin Lin said that the new Internet regulation violates Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which stipulates freedom in seeking and disseminating knowledge.

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