Rangoon Enters the Digital Age: Burma’s Electronic Transactions Law As A Sign of Hope for A Troubled Nation

  •  Stephen E. Blythe    


Since it became independent in 1948, Burma has been plagued with a succession of military dictatorships. The present government refuses to recognize the election of Nobel Peace Laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, and keeps her under house arrest. Nevertheless, the legal foundation of Burma continues to develop, serving as a beacon towards a brighter day for the country. One example is the Electronic Transactions Law (“ETL”) of 2004, a solid framework upon which E-commerce and E-government can be built in the future. The ETL recognizes the legal validity of electronic records, messages and signatures. The statute contains a third-generation E-signature law; all forms of electronic signatures are recognized, but a preference is given to the heightened security afforded by the digital signature. Commensurate with that preference, the ETL establishes a compulsory system of licensing of Certification Authorities (“CA”), prescribes detailed rules for them to follow, and assigns the Control Board to oversee their activities. The ETL contains a list of computer crimes, some of which are punishable by 15 years’ imprisonment. Is the ETL up-to-date according to current trends in international E-commerce law? Not quite. Recommended amendments are to: (1)increase the potential liability of CA’s; (2) recognize the legal validity of  electronic wills; (3) add consumer protections; (4) claim “long arm” jurisdiction over foreign parties in E-commerce transactions; (5) compress the ETL’s bureaucracy through consolidation of the Central Body and the Control Board; (6) provide for reciprocal recognition of foreign CA’s and foreign certificates; and (7) establish informal Information Technology tribunals as a court-of-first-resort for E-commerce disputes.

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