BANGKOK (Reuters) - Myanmar’s military junta has launched a series of crippling cyberspace attacks on dissident websites on the first anniversary of major protest marches by Buddhist monks, the sites said on Friday.
The Irrawaddy, a Thailand-based weekly journal and website (www.irrawaddy.org) covering the former Burma, described the online assault as persistent and “very sophisticated”.
In a posting on a temporary site hosted on a back-up server, it also made a direct connection between the start of the cyber-attack on Wednesday and the monk-led protests that began in Yangon on Sept. 18 last year.
“Burma’s military authorities obviously did not want any similar sentiments this year and, once again, shot down their enemies,” Irrawaddy editor Aung Zaw said.
There were similar outages at the Burmese-language New Era Journal and the Democratic Voice of Burma (DVB) (www.dvb.no), an Olso-based news outlet that aired footage and images of the 2007 protests and the ensuing crackdown, in which at least 31 people were killed.
Irrawaddy said Thai web host I-NET had confirmed on Wednesday its site had been under “distributed denial-of-service” assault.
In “denial-of-service” attacks a website is bombarded with so much traffic it grinds to a halt.
DVB’s Thailand bureau chief, Toe Zaw Latt, said the agency’s website was only a small part of its reporting operations, and its radio and satellite television stations, both major sources of news inside Myanmar, remained up and running.
“They can’t block our short-wave radio and satellite signals,” he told Reuters.
The DVB attacks, which also started on Wednesday, appeared to come from sites in Russia and China, Toe Zaw Latt said, corroborating reports of the junta getting Internet training from Beijing and Moscow, its main diplomatic backers.
The Internet inside Myanmar had also been running even slower than its normal snail’s pace this week and Internet cafes had come under unusually tight surveillance, the Irrawaddy said, suggesting junta unease at the protest anniversary.
Security was also tight on the streets of Yangon, with some vehicle checkpoints, one diplomat said.
The protests started in August 2007 with small demonstrations against declining living standards, but soon sucked in the revered Buddhist monkhood and snowballed into the biggest challenge to military rule since a 1988 uprising.
Most the organisers of the initial marches, members of the “88 Generation Students” who survived the brutally crushed 1988 revolt, were arrested a year ago and have been behind bars ever since.
As such, any repeat outbreak of dissent looks extremely unlikely. Other underground democracy activists were keeping their powder dry for a general election slated for 2010 and could not afford to get arrested, Toe Zaw Latt said.
“They have to keep their strength for bigger events,” he said.