Report Launch | Digital Rights in Southeast Asia 2021/2022

DigitalReach’s annual report on digital rights in Southeast Asia reviews the digital rights situation in Southeast Asia over a calendar year. The latest report seeks to understand the influence of technology on the development of human rights between January and December 2021. It serves as a guide for DigitalReach and our partners on digital rights-related work in the region.

The highlight of this year’s report is digital authoritarianism in Myanmar, which focuses on the tactics used by the Myanmar military. This is followed by a discussion of developments that fall under the organization’s three core areas of work: freedom of expression and access to information, the right to privacy, and digital security.

Freedom of Expression: The report highlighted attempts by governments across Southeast Asia to control social media platforms, increasingly sophisticated state-sponsored information operations, new threats against online independent media, and the normalization of internet restrictions.

Right to Privacy: 2021 saw a significant rise of digital surveillance in Southeast Asia. The near simultaneous introduction of personal data protection laws in the region are unlikely to protect rights defenders and political dissidents from state surveillance. Failures of digital contact tracing to put the pandemic under control has also been more visible in 2021.

Digital security: Digital-related threats have intensified following the rise of digital surveillance. There is increasing use of sophisticated state-sponsored information operations to target rights defenders and dissidents, amplifying existing information disorder from the past year. Digital security threats from policies relating to technology and digital space are likely to persist, along with the harassment and detention of rights defenders and dissidents.

Apart from providing insight into trends, events, and incidents highlighted in the report, this year’s launch will discuss what to expect in 2022 with regard to digital rights in the Philippines, Myanmar, Thailand, Singapore, and Malaysia. These countries were chosen based on key developments in 2021. The launch will also discuss the upcoming 2022 Philippine Presidential Election, the situation in Myanmar, spyware attacks and other issues in Thailand, the Singapore government’s obsession with foreign interference, and what to expect in Malaysia following its 2021 government changeover.

Moderator and Speaker for the Launch

Ploy Chanprasert (she/her)

Executive Director, DigitalReach


Htaike Htaike Aung (she/her)

Lead Curator, Myanmar Internet Project

Htaike Htaike Aung was the Executive Director and co-founder of Myanmar ICT for Development Organization (MIDO), which is one of the leading digital rights organizations in Myanmar. Htaike is a policy wonk with a passion for the open web and internet freedom, trying to shape digital rights policy through advocacy. Htaike has also been involved in advocating online platforms, particularly Facebook since 2013, to make them more accountable about their impact on society. After the coup, Htaike’s is working as a lead curator for “Myanmar Internet Project” an initiative focusing on consolidating resources around Myanmar’s digital rights issues.

Ellen Tordesillas (she/her)

VERA Files

Ellen Tordesillas is trustee and writer of VERA Files, a group that undertakes in-depth reporting on current issues and does Fact-checking to fight disinformation. She writes opinion columns which appear in Malaya Business Insight, ABS-CBN online and VERA Files. She has covered all Philippine elections since the 1986 snap elections that triggered the ouster of Ferdinand Marcos. She won, with Sheila Coronel, the Jaime V. Ongpin award for best investigative reporting in 1999 for the special report on the Public Estates Authority- Amari deal dubbed as “The Grandmother of all scams” she did for the Philippine Center for Investigative Reporting.

Sarinee Achavanuntakul (she/her)

Co-Founder, Thai Netizen Network

Sarinee Achavanuntakul is a Thai writer, social critic, and sustainable business researcher. She writes regularly about citizen empowerment in the 21st century, sustainability, and games in various online publications. In 2007, in the wake of the passage of Thailand’s first Computer Crimes Act, Sarinee co-founded Thai Netizen Network (TNN) to advocate Internet freedom and online privacy. In 2011, she co-founded ThaiPublica, an online investigative news organization. In July 2013, she co-founded Sal Forest Co. Ltd., Thailand’s first “sustainable business accelerator.” Most recently in 2018, she co-founded Salt Publishing, a publishing house that focuses on science, technology and philosophy books.

Kirsten Han (she/her)

Independent Journalist

Kirsten Han is a Singaporean journalist and activist who runs We, The Citizens, a newsletter covering Singapore from a rights-based perspective. She also regularly freelances for international media publications; her byline has appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Guardian, Foreign Policy, and more. She received an Honorable Mention in 2018 for the World Justice Project’s Anthony Lewis Prize for Exceptional Rule of Law Journalism, and a Human Rights Press Award in 2019 for her commentaries on “fake news” and freedom of expression.

Watshlah Naidu (she/her)

Executive Director, Center for Independent Journalism, Malaysia (CIJ)

Wathshlah is currently the Executive Director of the Center for Independent Journalism (CIJ), a Malaysian civil-society organization that focuses on freedom of expression, promoting media freedom, digital rights and right to information. She has 20 years of experience in human rights, having worked globally and nationally with UN agencies and other human right NGOs, dealing with law and policy reform and advocacy related to access to justice; development and economic rights; freedom of expression; violence against women; migration and trafficking; and conflict and post conflict situations. Just prior to joining CIJ she headed the Complaints Unit at the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) which required managing effective resolution of human rights and environmental disputes related to the palm oil industry.

Date & Time

February 18, 2022

12.30 p.m. – 2.30 p.m.
Yangon (GMT +6.30)

1.00 p.m. – 3.00 p.m.
Bangkok, Jakarta, Phnom Penh, Hanoi (GMT +7)

2.00 p.m. – 4.00 p.m. 
Singapore, Manila, Kuala Lumpur (GMT +8)


1.00 p.m. – 1.05 p.m.
(5 minutes)
1.05 p.m. – 1.35 p.m.
(30 minutes)
Launch of the Report
1.35 p.m. – 2.35 p.m.
(60 minutes)
Fireside Chat
2.35 p.m. – 3.30 p.m.
(25 minutes)