The documents indicate that dual-use surveillance technology made by Israeli, American and European companies made its way to Myanmar, despite many of their home governments banning such exports after the military’s brutal expulsion of Rohingya Muslims in 2017.
Even in countries that didn’t officially block such trade, many Western purveyors had clauses in their corporate guidelines barring their technology from being used to abuse human rights.
In the most egregious cases, firms supplied surveillance tools and weaponry to the military and the ministries it controlled, evading arms embargoes and export bans. In others, they continued to sell dual-use technology without conducting due diligence about how it might be used and who might use it.
Often, they depended on military-linked brokers who thrive in the shadowy interstices, allowing the Tatmadaw to acquire the tools of oppression indirectly from foreign companies.
Hardware that was sold to the police to catch criminals is being used to track opponents of the coup online and offline.
Documentation for post-coup arrest warrants, which were reviewed by The Times, shows that Myanmar’s security forces have triangulated between their critics’ social media posts and the individual addresses of their internet hookups to find where they live. Such detective work could only have been carried out by using specialized foreign technology, according to experts with knowledge of Myanmar’s surveillance infrastructure.
“Even under a civilian government, there was little oversight of the military’s expenditure for surveillance technology,” said Ko Nay Yan Oo, a former fellow at the Pacific Forum of the Center for Strategic and International Studies who has studied the Myanmar military. “Now we are under military rule, and they can do everything they want.”