Censorship, detainments, disappearances, and murder is the way of Myanmar’s military rule, or Junta. They have taken nearly everything from Myanmar- life, liberty, freedom-even access to the internet is no exception. The internet makes education, communication, healthcare, business, and much more available to the public; however, the Junta has made sure to put a stop to that.
As of date, there have been over 100 nights of near total internet shutdowns. The shutdowns are being carried out by the Junta, who is ordering internet service providers to cut off wireless services in Myanmar. One of these telecommunications companies is Ooredoo, who claims to have received a directive from the Ministry of Transport and Communications saying that “all wireless broadband data services will be temporarily suspended until further notice.” They have “intermittently shut down fiber optic and fixed cable connectivity throughout the night.” Additionally, all social media networks Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc have been banned throughout the nation. The Committee Representing Pyidaungsu Hluttaw, or CRPH, website has also been banned, along with many news sites, suppressing the Myanmar population of basic information.
As access to internet services remains unreliable, Myanmar’s military strengthens its presence. Their grasp on power is increasing, and protesters are struggling to find ways to communicate with each other without the internet. While organizing, protestors have resorted to “creating, sharing, and translating tools to help keep themselves safe.” Radio channels and apps that do not require the internet are the common forms of communication amongst the Myanmar population. Albeit their resourcefulness, these resources are quite exposed to Junta interference. Along with the restricted access to information, the internet shutdowns have also “crippled businesses and limited access to medical information during the coronavirus pandemic.”
Free Expression Myanmar, a group of human rights working on freedom of expression and information in Myanmar warned the population of the internet being cut off; they went to twitter and said “With mobile data already off, only fixed-line will remain. Order is temporary but open-ended. Everyone should be making whatever plans are possible.” Zaw Min Tun of the Junta said that they have no intentions of lifting the internet shutdown in the foreseeable future.
With the internet suppression still in place, Myanmar went to the streets, with protestors saying phrases like “We Myanmar people are in the dark now,” and“News from Myanmar is going to disappear.” Protestors also held a candlelight vigil, using the candles to spell out the phrase “We will never surrender”.
The United Nations has released a statement regarding Myanmar’s situation, saying that the Junta has “shut down the dialogue” and “curtailed access to information”.The UN wrote that “Myanmar’s military has shut its doors to most of the world and would only engage when they can contain the situation through repression and terror”. China and Russia have strong censorship laws of their own, and consequently their signatures were noticeably missing from the statement.