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Myanmar expands facial recognition-ready surveillance ‘safe cities’

Myanmar expands facial recognition-ready surveillance ‘safe cities’

Myanmar is creating five more ‘safe city’ surveillance schemes across the country using technology from the Chinese firms Dahua, Huawei and Hikvision, reports Reuters. The cameras are described as having facial recognition capabilities.

The new city projects carried out tenders describing the aims of the safe cities to be maintaining security and preserving civil peace, according to Reuters’ sources. They join the existing projects already in place or under development in the country, four of which were underway before the February 2021 coup.

More than 200 Dahua cameras are due to be installed in Mawlamyine, the country’s fourth largest city.

Tenders were conducted by Myanmar firms Fisca Security & Communication and Naung Yoe Technologies Co. While these firms, Huawei and Dahua did not reply to Reuters, Hikvision said it had not sold directly to Myanmar government authorities and its customers in overseas markets are distributors and integrators.

Hikvision also stated that it had not sold facial recognition technology into the country but did not respond when asked whether its facial recognition ready cameras had been sold to Myanmar. Reuters’ sources added that Myanmar firms sometimes use facial recognition from other local or regional providers to avoid the software license costs of the Chinese firms.

Reuters’ reporting was sufficient to trigger a response from China via its polemic Global Times outlet. The editorial ventures that “While it is unclear whether the local companies that won the tender for Myanmar’s safe city projects actually bought products from Chinese companies, it is worth noting that this is not the first time that Western media outlets used business connections between the two countries to hint at China’s ‘attitude’ toward Myanmar.”

While ownership of the Chinese firms involved is not clear, they are likely to have close government oversight and Communist Party officials on their boards. Global Times could easily clarify these points.

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