Myanmar`s Suu Kyi gets web access

The democracy icon will use the technology to contact network of supporters.

Yangon: Myanmar democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi has finally had Internet access installed at home after her years of isolation were brought to an end two months ago, an aide said on Friday.

Her security chief Win Htein said that the opposition leader was "glad" to be able to go online at her lakeside mansion in Yangon and would use the technology to contact her network of supporters.

"But she cannot use the Internet now as she is not feeling well and is coughing," he said.

It is believed that the Nobel laureate has never before surfed the web.

Suu Kyi, who was locked up for seven straight years with no telephone or Internet until November, has expressed an interest in using the micro-blogging site Twitter or the social network Facebook to reach young people.

She applied to a private company for Internet access soon after she was released, but the request was transferred to Yatanarpon Teleport, a firm run by the country`s military authorities.

Citizens of Myanmar, which has been ruled by the military since 1962, must obtain the authorities` permission to be able to go online at home and there is a thriving black market for facilities under assumed identities.

Suu Kyi applied officially under her own name for web access because she wants to use email, Win Htein said.

Media watchdog Reporters Without Borders describes Myanmar`s legislation on Internet use, the Electronic Act, as among the world`s most repressive, with online dissidents facing lengthy prison terms.

In November, the group described Yatanarpon Teleport`s e-mail service, Ymail, and instant messaging, Ytalk, provided as alternatives to Google`s Gmail and Gtalk, as attempts "to make it even easier for the authorities to monitor online communications".

Just one in every 455 of Myanmar`s inhabitants was Internet user in 2009, based on statistics from the International Telecommunication Union, a UN agency in Geneva.

Some web users believed authorities intentionally slowed services ahead of the country`s first elections in two decades in November, while many fear online surveillance by the state.

Myanmar is poised to open a new Parliament this month following the polls, which were decried in the West as a sham aimed at shoring up military power and boycotted by Suu Kyi`s party.

Her National League for Democracy won a 1990 election in a landslide but the result was never recognised by the regime and Suu Kyi has spent most of the past 20 years in detention.

Bureau Report