Title: The smartphone and the coup: how Myanmar's conflicts are entangled with digital technologies, policies and violence

Authors: Stefan Bächtold

Addresses: Munich Center for Technology in Society, Technical University of Munich, Germany; Monash University Malaysia, School of Arts and Social Sciences, Building 2, Level 6, Jalan Lagoon Selatan, 47500 Bandar Sunway, Selangor Darul Ehsan, Malaysia

Abstract: In February 2021, a coup by the Myanmar military ended a ten-year democratisation process. After a rapid digitalisation of Myanmar's political struggles, the military blacked out the country's internet access. Drawing on the sensitivities of science and technology studies for the intersection of digital technology with societal power structures, this paper examines digital policies and practices of the protest movement, the Myanmar military and Facebook. This analysis reveals uncanny similarities: through their opaqueness, the latter actors' policies create uncertainty on what is allowed and what is not, limit means of recourse, and perform authority over the population by directly reaching into people's everyday lives. This article thus de-centres established narratives on Myanmar's political environment in the aftermath of the coup, but also points out the highly ambiguous agency that digital technologies develop in assemblages of political conflict, the (global) discourse on terrorism and government.

Keywords: Myanmar; armed conflict; democratisation; digital technology; social media; Facebook; assemblage; science and technology studies; STS; critical policy studies; malign policies.

DOI: 10.1504/IJPP.2022.127428

International Journal of Public Policy, 2022 Vol.16 No.5/6, pp.293 - 310

Received: 20 Sep 2021
Accepted: 15 Dec 2021

Published online: 05 Dec 2022 *

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