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Burmese websites attacked by hackers

Three Burmese news websites operated by activists and exiled journalists have been attacked by hackers on the anniversary of the Saffron Revolution. The sites' journalists believe the Burmese regime is behind the attacks.

Websites operated by The Irrawaddy magazine, Mizzima News and Democratic Voice of Burma, said they had been attacked by well-prepared hackers who used denial-of-service attacks which fire thousands of erroneous web connections at the sites.

Aung Zaw, editor of The Irrawaddy, a popular Thailand-based source of news on Burma and south-east Asia, said his site was first attacked two years ago. "The attacks continue and originated from China. [They are] far more serious than last time," he said, explaining that the Burmese authorities may have paid cyber criminals in China to carry out the attack.

Mizzima News, which is based in India and which also has undercover sources in Burma, said it was attacked over a period of several days, starting last Friday. "We do not know who is doing this but it really disturbs our work," said editor Soe Myint. "Thousands of our viewers and readers since Friday have been denied access to our news and TV stories with this criminal act of attack. The attack continues... we cannot find out who is doing it."

There is no proof that the Burmese junta is behind the attacks on the websites, which have steadily become a crucial source of information on a regime that acts to prevent independent reporting. But journalists believe the junta may be testing its ability to crash the websites ahead of an election planned for November. The authorities have already taken steps to limit independent reporting about the election, which many activists in the West believe will simply cement the position of the military.

The Democratic Voice of Burma, which operates out of Norway, said its service had been restored after 18 hours. The Irrawaddy set up a mirror site for its readers.

The latest attacks coincide with the three-year anniversary of the September 2007 uprising, which has come to be known as the Saffron Revolution, when Buddhist monks and ordinary people took to the streets of Burma's largest cities demanding change. The regime responded with force, killing several dozen protesters and incarcerating hundreds more.