Athens Journal of Law - Volume 8, Issue 3, July 2022 – Pages 309-330 Use and Abuse of Social Media in Myanmar between 2010 and 2022 By Robert Smith* & Nucharee Smith± Myanmar, or Burma as it was previously known, has been under almost most continuous military rule since 1962 except for a brief period from 2016 until 1 February 2021. The military started the transfer of power to a civilian government in 2010 until the military staged a coup on 1 February 2021. The country has essentially been in a state of various civil wars since its independence in 1948. The period from 2010 saw the opening up of the telecommunications sector and a rapid uptake in social media. The spread of smartphones has opened up communication to the masses and provided them with access to information; the Myanmar Military has also used it to spread disinformation. These campaigns are used to uphold the state, people and religion. To the military, this essentially means the Burman (Bamar) majority, the Buddhist religion and the unitary state (with the military as its guardian). In many of these endeavours, they have been supported by non-state actors such as militant Buddhist monks. Since the military takeover in 2021, the resistance has also used social media, particularly young people and the many ethnic armed groups. Keywords: Social-media, disinformation, human rights, military rule, cyber security legislation Introduction Myanmar, or Burma as it was formerly called, has had a troubled history, particularly since its independence from Britain in 1948.1 There were four elections between 1947 and 1960, followed by a military coup in 1962.2 Then followed the institutionalisation of military rule from 1962 to 1989, although, in 1972, it morphed into a civilian one-party state under a draft Constitution.3 Myanmar consists of more than 130 different ethnic groups.4 The majority are the Buddhist Bamars, who also make up most of the elite, and “experts say the army sees itself as the elite of this elite”.5 There was a pro-democracy uprising in 1988, and multi-party elections were held in 1990, which the National League for Democracy (NLD) won with an * PhD (Civil Engineering), M.Phil in law, Postgraduate Student in Law, University of New England, Armidale, New South Wales, Australia. Email: or ± PhD (International Trade Law), Assistant Professor, Kasetsart University, Chalermphrakiat Sakon Nakhon Province Campus, Thailand. Corresponding author. E-mail: 1 Kipgen (2022). 2 Ibid, at 34-36. 3 Ibid, at 38-39. 4 BBC News (2022). 5 Ibid. 309 Electronic copy available at:

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