London, Sept.22 : Burma has launched a ferocious "cyber-war" against dissidents who use the Internet. According to The Times, in the past few days anti-government online magazines run by exiled Burmese have been inundated by massive volumes of artificially generated traffic that have forced the news websites to shut down.
The attacks coincided with the first anniversary of the "saffron uprising" - ten days of mass demonstrations by Buddhist monks and student activists that culminated in a crackdown in which dozens were killed and thousands arrested.
The concerted attacks - which appear to originate in China, Russia and Europe as well as Burma - can only be the work of agents of the Burmese Government and may be an effort to compensate for its failure last year to stem the flow of images showing vast columns of unarmed demonstrators and their eventual dispersal under a rain of bullets and truncheons.
Aung Zaw, editor of The Irrawaddy magazine and news website, based in the Thai city of Chiang Mai, said: "This attack is revenge. Last year the people beat the Government in the cyber-wars by getting lots of images and live news reporting out. Now the Government is saying, 'We're much more advanced than before and we can cripple you'."
The attacks began last Wednesday when three websites - The Irrawaddy, the Oslo-based Democratic Voice of Burma and the New Era in Bangkok - became inaccessible.
Within hours, the Internet service providers for The Irrawaddy's main site and its back-up site were forced to shut them down.
The attacks eased over the weekend, but Zaw said he feared that they would resume this week in the build-up to the anniversary of September 26, 2007, when the Government imposed a curfew and began its attacks and arrests on demonstrators.
The Irrawaddy, the most popular of the news services, has correspondents working undercover in Burma and on the Thai border. The print version has only 400 subscriptions but its website has 25 million hits and 100,000 unique visitors a month, including diplomats, journalists and activists following Burma.