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Myanmar junta cuts communications in 80 townships

Published : 15 Mar 2024 10:37 PM
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Myanmar’s junta has cut off internet and phone lines in around 80 townships across the country, according to Athan, a freedom of expression organization.

All 17 Rakhine townships were hit by communication blackouts and 27 out of 34 townships in Sagaing Region and five out of seven Kayah State townships were included in the list, the group reported. Townships from Shan, Chin, Kachin and Mon states and Tanintharyi, Magwe, Bago and Ayeyarwady regions were also included.

The blackouts are not imposed uniformly with most townships losing both internet and phone lines but in others only mobile internet was blocked and elsewhere weak or slow signals continued.

The Arakan Army has been fighting the junta across northern Rakhine State since November last year and has seized around 180 junta bases, nine towns and the whole of Paletwa Township in southern Chin State.

Athan said in the Rakhine capital, Sittwe, the military-owned telecom provider Mytel was working until February 16, when all wi-fi and mobile internet services were cut.

But two Rakhine residents told The Irrawaddy that junta-owned telecom operations Mytel and MPT were operating in Sittwe on Thursday. A resident said in some areas phone lines have been restored but there is no internet connection.

The shutdowns had slowed the flow of reliable reports from Rakhine State, Athan said, adding that banking services and online financial transfers had ceased.

Athan said communication blackouts are a junta strategy to stifle anti-regime forces.

“It is clear that the junta is deliberately suppressing people to conceal the flow of information and to cut off links with revolutionary activities,” it added.

Myanmar was ranked the second worst country for internet freedom after China in Washington-based Freedom House’s annual report last year.