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Burma’s cyber city is a lie?

The military rulers of Burma are planning to open a cyber city, based on Malaysia’s Multimedia Super Corridor, in January 2008. The following report states that the announced starting tenants are made up.

TelecomTV – TelecomTV One – News

Now, it just so happens that I was tracking a story on the junta’s plans for its very own cyber city just before the protests began. There have been quite a few reports across Asia recently that the Burmese “government” is building its 10,000-acre (4,050 hectare) “Yadanabon cyber city” project about 70 kilometres east of Mandalay, Burma’s second largest city.According China’s Xinhua news agency, not only is it going ahead as planned, but the first stage will be opening officially in January 2008 with some big-name tenants from China, Russia, Thailand and Malaysia headlining the propaganda event.

Back in June, “The Irrawaddy”, probably the best news source about Burma, filed a story that panned the grandiose ICT plans of the junta. In particular it quoted Reporters without Borders, which labels Burma an “Internet black hole”, and suggested that no foreign company in its right mind would risk going anywhere near “Myanmar”.

However, according to Xinhua last month, the list of companies signed up to be anchor tenants in the cyber city include the likes of ZTE and Alcatel Shanghai Bell (ASB) from China, Thailand’s Shin Satellite, IP Tel from Malaysia and Russian software outfit CBOSS. It also claims that an airport had been built “in” the cyber city and that “various systems including ADSL, CATV, Triple Play and WiMax are being installed, experts said, adding that the present stage before the soft opening deals with fibre cable installation.”

That’s quite a detailed list of development. As it turned out, I was at a satellite conference in Bangkok the same week and thus had a chance to ask a number of people at Shin Satellite, including the company president, directly about this.

Not one single person at that company had even heard of the mythical Yadanabon cyber city, never mind being listed as an anchor tenant there. I then contacted Alcatel about the Alcatel Shanghai Bell (ASB) involvement and got the same response – there were no plans to invest in the cyber city project.

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