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Myanmar Digital Coup Quarterly: May-July 2021

EngageMedia is publishing English translations of the Myanmar Digital Coup Quarterly produced by the Myanmar Internet Project. This post covers updates between May 2021 to July 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 May 2021

  • Continued shutdown of internet access and people’s efforts to access the internet
  • Internet access with restrictions

Internet shutdowns (except fibre internet) which started on April 1 continued until the end of May.

People’s attempts to access information in the midst of continuous internet shutdown

People’s access to reliable information sources has become weak as mentioned above during the internet shutdown period.

People trying to help each other regarding access to the internet via social media networks

During that period, people who are starved for information attempted several methods in order to be able to use the internet. The technicians also tried for internet access by using virtual private networks (VPNs). However, those methods of internet access with VPN only lasted for hours and these were eventually also restricted.

Internet access with restrictions

According to news from Nikkei Asia, Myanmar’s junta shared lists of over 1,200 online services and domain names it deems acceptable for public viewing since May 25. However, they excluded Facebook and Twitter in a bid to curb anti-coup protests.

Nikkei Asia news on Myanmar allowing 1,200 online services and domain names, excluding Facebook and Twitter

Summary of digital oppression issues in June 2021

  • NUG’s press conference and the internet shutdown

The National Unity Government announced its first-ever press conference is to be held on June 4.

NUG’s press conference and the internet shutdown

News on NUG’s first presser with the timely internet shutdown

The military council shut down the mobile internet lines including 5BB, Fortune at the same time that NUG was holding its online press conference. People posted on social media networks regarding the critics and jokes of this act of the military council. The military council weaponised the internet shutdown throughout the whole coup period in order to half the information flow.

Summary of digital oppression issues in July 2021

  • The military council stepped up surveillance of mobile phones and internet usage
  • Telecom operator executives in Myanmar are restricted from leaving the country
  • Telenor Myanmar decides to leave the country

The military council has stepped up its surveillance of mobile phones and internet usage while attempting to halt access to information flow depending on the conflict situations.

The military council stepped up surveillance of mobile phones and internet usage

According to Frontier Myanmar’s news on July 5, 2021, the military is working with mobile operators such as Mytel, MPT to monitor phone users in real-time. On the same day, Mizzima reported that Myanmar’s military rulers have asked executives from Norwegian telecom firm Telenor not to leave the country since mid-June. Additionally, the military also instructed telecom operators to install intercept technology by July 5, according to the article.

The news article on surveillance on mobile phone users via telecom operators

Telecom operator executives in Myanmar are restricted from leaving the country

The military council instructed executives working in telecom companies in Myanmar not to leave the country. That instruction intended to pressure the targeted telecom operators who refused to install intercept technology demanded by the military council.

The news article regarding the exit restrictions imposed on senior foreign executives working in the telecom industry

Telenor Myanmar decides to leave the country

As telecom operators struggle with the pressure, Telenor, one of the biggest foreign investors in Myanmar, announced on July 8 that it sold its Myanmar operations to Lebanese investment firm M1 Group for $105 million. In its statement, Telenor said that the situation of Myanmar over the past months has worsened and that was one of the main reasons to retreat the company’s investment.

News of Telenor Myanmar’s sales to M1 Group along with their statement

The M1 Group, owned by former Lebanon prime minister Najib Miakti, is also the original owner of the blacklisted “Irrawaddy Green towers” which built the telecom towers for Myanmar military-owned Mytel telecom, according to Myanmar Now news article.

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