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  • Myanmar Internet Project

Myanmar's Internet Shutdown Brief



It has been found that the internet shutdowns are often restored by the governments during the times of extraordinary political events such as elections, mass movements, political and ethnic conflict period. Almost all authorities have cited similar reasons, such as controlling fake news or maintaining stability, for implementing internet shutdowns. Nevertheless, every internet shutdown has a significant and negative impact on human rights including freedom of expression, freedom of Information, freedom of assembly and so on. Moreover, internet shutdowns occurring in the election periods cause doubt on the election process as well as silence on the sound of opposites and hinder electoral justice. In addition, there is ample international evidence indicating that human rights violations have occurred during internet blackout periods.


History of Myanmar Internet Shutdown 

Myanmar is one of the notorious countries, using the internet shutdown as a weapon. Reminiscing the history of Myanmar Internet Shutdown, they began during the saffron Revolution in 2007. 

The military government, led by Senior General Than Shwe, the former head of a junta, cut off the Internet and mobile communications to control the flow of information to the rest of the world, including reports of human rights violations and the crackdown on public movements. At a period of time, only one percent of the population had access to the internet, with approximately 25,000 email accounts activated. After the internet was restored, they attempted to slow and disrupt the information flow by blocking email and blog services.  

About three days before the 2010 election to start, internet outages occurred. The government asserts that these outages are typically instigated by external Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks. Despite that, external election observers and reporters were restricted from entering the country during the election period. In 2010 October before election month, regional media websites such as Irrawaddy, Mizzima and DVB, were faced with the DDOS attack. 

In June 2019, following escalated conflicts between the Myanmar military and ethnic armed forces, the civilian government imposed unnecessary and disproportionate internet shutdowns in several townships located in Rakhine and Chin States, based solely on information provided by the Myanmar military.This ended in February 2021 and was recorded as the longest internet shutdown in the world.


Escalation of Internet Outages After Coup

It was observed that internet shutdowns experienced a significant escalation subsequent to the February 2021 coup. Later on February 1, 2021, we experienced nationwide internet shutdowns at least 6 times. Popular social media services such as facebook and twitter have been blocked. In addition, nearly 1500 individuals who expressed their personal opinions in the digital space faced sentences over the past two years.

In war and conflict zones, SAC imposed the regional base internet shutdown continuously that we observed. During the coup period, it is recorded that there were at least over 260 regional internet shutdowns in the country, with over 80 occurring in Sagaing Region. 

Local residents are not only facing internet outages caused by the military council's direct instructions but also those resulting from infrastructure damage in conflict areas. The types of internet shutdowns caused by infrastructure deterioration include damage to towers and related equipment, the inability to repair damage to fiber lines promptly, power outages, or the inability to replenish gas for generators to operate towers in areas without electricity. These issues are being faced by local residents.


Types of Internet Shutdown in The Previous 

Beyond the coup, various types of internet shutdowns were observed. Primarily, they employed full internet shutdowns, service-based internet shutdowns, and regional-based internet shutdowns. Additionally, internet shutdowns occurred due to infrastructure damage.

Ultimately, they intensified surveillance of public internet activities and took significant actions. To legitimize their surveillance mechanisms, they made amendments to laws such as the Telecommunications Law as they liked.

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