Burma Starts Crackdown on Skype, VoIP Calls

April 17, 2011 Updated: January 30, 2012

 

Burmese authorities have started cracking down on voice over Internet protocol (VoIP) calls, including Skype, last week, following a state-mandated ban last month, the Irrawaddy has reported.

Officials from the regime’s Bureau of Special Investigation entered cyber cafes in Rangoon, as well as in several other cities, and forcefully told owners to discontinue providing the service.

Other than Skype, Google Talk, Pfingo, and VZO have been recently banned in Burma (also known as Myanmar).

“Authorities in civilian clothes came to my shop on Monday and told me not to provide Internet phone call service to customers,” the owner of a downtown cafe in Rangoon told Irrawaddy. “They said it is illegal under existing law, but they didn't specify so I don't know which law they were talking about.”

The cafe owner added that Google Talk and VZO are free-to-use services and are impossible to police. “The [Ministry of Post and Telecommunication] wanted to stop these services by saying that because of them the state revenue from overseas calls will be reduced,” the owner said.

Despite the ban and potential legal action from the regime, the cafe owner said that they will still provide VoIP services for people who need to communicate internationally.

“If people have to use a normal phone to call overseas they will become paupers since calling rates are very expensive,” he said, noting the relative inexpensiveness of Internet calls.

For example, cafes charge people $0.23 per minute for calls to the U.S. In comparison, the state charges $4.50 per minute to the U.S., reported Irrawaddy.

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