EngageMedia is publishing English translations of the Myanmar Digital Coup Quarterly produced by the Myanmar Internet Project. This post covers updates between August 2021 to October 2021 and highlights digital oppression incidents documented during that period. Read the original post in Burmese here, and learn more about EngageMedia’s broader work to support digital rights in Myanmar on EngageMedia.org/Myanmar.
Read the other editions of the report.
Summary of digital oppression issues in August 2021
- Regime begins controlling/restricting bank accounts
- Internet services cut off in Hpakant
The fibre internet cable connected on Myawaddy was cut off on August 1 which resulted in slow connections for at least a week.
Regime begins controlling/restricting bank accounts
The military council continues to attack the public’s communications system and as of August 6, has been restricting bank accounts to hamper donations for revolutionary causes.
The restrictions affect not only donations for anti-dictatorship causes but also bank accounts accepting donations for health issues.
The military dictatorship is using all kinds of methods to weaken the revolutionary forces, and the federal democratic revolutionary forces are trying to find ways to end this dictatorship. Notable efforts include the National Unity Government (NUG)’s “Raffle Ticket” sale introduced by the Ministry of Defense and the “Spring Lottery” sale. The NUG’s Ministry of Defense introduced the raffle ticket sales on August 12 while the lottery itself was launched on the 15th.
Media outlets reported on August 16 that in order to restrict donations to the revolution and monitor and control money transfers, the Central Bank of Myanmar – which is now under the control of the military council – issued a directive dated August 12 to financial institutions.
Internet services cut off in Hpakant
On August 20, Delta News Agency reported that internet lines were cut off in Hpakant of Kachin State by order of the military council. According to the news report, “The terrorist group ordered the shutdown of Internet networks in more than 50 communication towers in the area starting at 8 PM.” The order to cut off the internet included not only mobile internet but also fibre internet and broadband internet lines.
From the middle of July until the time when the internet was cut off, there were military tensions with the KIA in Hpakant, Kachin state, and it was also a period when local people’s activities against the terrorist military dictatorship were going strong.
Summary of digital oppression issues in September 2021
- Internet connections temporarily cut off in Dawei
- Telenor’s divestment not yet approved by military council
- Internet connections cut off in some areas of Sagaing and Mandalay regions
- Telenor Myanmar’s official announcement on the military council’s order to install mobile interception and surveillance system
- Internet connections also cut off in Magway region and Chin state
Internet lines were cut off in Hpakant, Kachin state once more and connections were later cut off in various areas.
Internet connections temporarily cut off in Dawei
According to a September 5 story by Dawei News Page, internet connections by Telenor, Ooredoo and even MBT Wifi lines were cut off in Dawei. This lasted an average of two hours but MPT and Mytel lines were reportedly not cut off.
Coincidentally, reports of the military council conducting operations in the regions of Dawei, Myeik and Ye began surfacing around the same time internet lines were cut off.
Telenor’s divestment not yet approved by military council
Nikkei Asia reported on September 7 that the sale agreement for Telenor, which was sold to M1 Group for $105 million on July 8, is pending and uncertain because it has not received the approval of the State Administration Council. It is not known exactly what circumstances are causing the delay, but it is clear that the military council wants to limit and prevent the public’s use of the Internet and control the various dynamics and changing situations of the communication sector.
Internet connections cut off in some areas of Sagaing and Mandalay regions
The military council cut off internet lines around midday on September 14 in Kani, Yinmabin, Budalin, Ayadaw, Wetlet and Pale townships of Sagaing region and Mogok and Myingyan townships in Mandalay region.
Local residents report the internet was cut off in Magway region’s Taungdwingyi township and there were also reports that phone services were cut off in certain areas. In addition, there were reports that only 2G internet service could be used in Ye-U and Taze.
The People’s Defense Forces and the military council were engaging in fierce fighting during the time internet connections were cut off. There are reports of the regime increasing manpower and ammunition while conducting operations by land, air, and sea in the area.
Telenor Myanmar’s official announcement on the military council’s order to install a mobile interception and surveillance system
Telenor Myanmar’s announcement on September 15 makes it more obvious how much the military council wants to control the communication methods of the people of Myanmar. The telco’s statement said: “Telenor must allow the installation of intercept surveillance technology if it wants to remain in Myanmar”. It added that pressure from the military council to activate this technology has made it impossible for Telenor to continue its presence in the country. This statement highlights just how low freedom of expression has sunk after the military coup.
Internet connections also cut off in Magway region and Chin state
On September 23, the military council cut off internet lines in Gangaw, Myaing, and Tilin in Magway region and also in Thantlang, Falam, Tedim, Tonzang, Matupi, Kanpetlet, Midat and Paletwa in Chin state.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs, under the control of the military council, issued a statement on September 25 which accused the NUG and PDF of destroying communication towers.
According to previous cases of internet shutdowns, the military council targeted the areas of local People’s Defence Forces (PDFs), where ethnic revolutionary forces are in contact, and areas where the revolutionary movement against the military dictatorship is more active. Thus, the statement of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs under the Military Council is illogical.
The day after the statement was released by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Military Council on September 26, internet and phone lines were cut off for the local People’s Defence Forces (PDFs) revolting against the military dictatorship in the townships of Kawlin, Wuntho, and Pinlebu in Sagaing Region. This brings the total number of townships facing internet shutdowns to 25.
Summary of digital oppression issues in October 2021
- Internet lines were cut off in Mindat and Matupi townships
As mentioned above, the military council has persisted in taking actions to cut off internet lines and disrupt the flow of information in areas experiencing intense conflict.
Internet Shutdown in Mindat and Matupi Townships
On October 8, it was observed that internet lines were once again shut down in the townships of Min Tu and Matupi in Chin State.
In hindsight, it can be noted that the shutdowns happened during a conflict with the revolutionary forces. The local community has experienced a significant loss of residential and religious buildings in the area.