Myanmar budgets show Western supplies of surveillance technology


Hundreds of pages of Myanmar government budgets for the last two fiscal years obtained by the New York Times show that the Myanmar military who staged a coup in February 2021 had new and sophisticated tools at their disposal: Israeli-made, military-grade surveillance drones, European iPhone cracking devices, and US software that can hack into computers and extract their contents. Purchases of sensitive dual-use cybersecurity and defence technology continued during the five years in which the military shared power with a civilian government, which many Western businesses saw as an opportunity to enter a new market. Since the coup, these and other technologies that can track people's live locations and listen to their conversations have been used to detain more than 1,100 people, kill at least 25, and generally crack down on peaceful protesters. Among the software and companies that supplied the technologies are Swedish forensic data tools company MSAB and Apple extraction software MacQuisition, the product of a US company bought in 2020 by Israel's Cellebrite. Many of these sales rely on intermediaries masquerading as education, construction, or technology companies.

Writer: Hannah Beech

Publication: New York Times