09/27/2021, 14.49
MYANMAR
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Military junta denies blocking the Internet

The military blames telecommunications disruption on ethnic military forces. Internet blackout impacts mostly anti-coup strongholds. Anti-coup groups fear this is the prelude to major military action against them.

 

Yangon (AsiaNews/Agencies) – Myanmar’s military junta has denied responsibility for Internet failure in Chin State, blaming instead ethnic militias with which they clashed in recent days.

According to The Irrawaddy, Internet services by Myanmar’s three main telecom operators were blocked in Chin State on 6 pm last Thursday, including three townships in the Magway region.

Telecommunications were also suspended yesterday in Pinlebu, Kawlin and Wuntho townships in northern Sagaing region.

The areas under blackout are strongholds of anti-coup forces, which in recent days have inflicted heavy losses on the Myanmar military.

On Saturday, the junta's foreign minister denied that the State Administration Council, Myanmar’s ruling body, was responsible for the blackout.

“In fact, the recent Internet connections were disrupted due to the terrorist acts such as destroying of communication towers by terrorist groups,” the ministry said in a statement.

“The ministry urged some foreign missions in Yangon to thoroughly verify information before making statements.”

The military has blocked the Internet before. It did so in the weeks following the 1 February coup, when it arrested former pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi and other members of the National League for Democracy.

The recent blackout could be the prelude to a major military operation against anti-regime groups, anti-coup groups fear.

In blocking the Internet, the military wants to disrupt information sharing by ethnic forces about troop movements and attacks, as well as censor news about its atrocities, such as the recent bombing of residential areas.

In the meantime, following the appeal by the exiled National Unity Government to rise up against the military junta fighting has intensified.

In Chin, where resistance forces control rural areas, the military bombed the towns of Thantlang, Hakah and Mindat in response to attacks by local forces.

Since April, the Chin Defence Forces have engaged coup troops in at least 300 armed clashes.

According to their spokesman, nearly 500 soldiers have been killed, compared to about 60 civilian resistance fighters.

In addition to interfering with the communications of anti-coup forces, the internet blackout is hindering civilian access to information about the COVID-19 pandemic and disrupting a number of local businesses as online money transfer services cannot be used.

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