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  • Myanmar Internet Project

DIGITAL COUP QUARTERLY ( November 2022 to January 2023)

Updated: Jan 30


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Myanmar has now been under military rule for two years. It is obvious that the military council viewed issues related to information and communication as a military weapon throughout the coup period. Since then, the military council has been arbitrarily limiting, controlling, and banning the communication and information consumption of the public, which are basic human rights.

The military council has conducted various activities to increase restrictions on public information and communication matters, such as enforcing SIM card registrations, cutting telephone lines by location depending on military operations and conflict situations, checking people’s mobile phones, and arresting people who write online posts opposing the junta and those who react with likes and comments on the social media accounts of prominent revolutionists. These incidents of digital oppression were most prominent between November 2022 and January 2023.

This article summarises the digital oppression incidents that occurred between November 2022 to January 2022 (a three-month period).


Summary of Digital Oppression Issues

in November 2022

Issues related to the enforcement of SIM card registration
  • The military council’s Ministry of Transport and Communications issued tenders for setting up a SIM Registration Management System

  • Announcement to revise SIM card registration data before 31 January 2023

Incidents of phone lines being cut
  • Military council installed Mytel wifi routers in Hpakant where mobile internet has been cut off

  • Telenor phone lines cut off in some places of Wetlet township

  • MPT phone lines cut off in Shwegu township

Arrests over online speech and checking mobile phones
  • Checking travellers’ phones by providing wifi access at a checkpoint in Thanatpin

  • Zoom class screenshots and student list of Interim Basic Education School (Thingangyun) distributed through a pro-military Telegram channel

  • Military council arrested a young woman in Khamon Kangyi village, Kawa township, Bago division, over a TikTok video mocking Min Aung Hlaing

Issues Related to the Enforcement of

SIM Card Registration

Since September 2022, the military council started reviewing SIM card registration data. According to an announcement, incorrectly-registered SIM cards will be deactivated. In November, the enforcement of the SIM Card registration process continued.


The Military Council’s Ministry of Transport and Communications Issued Tenders for Setting up a SIM Registration Management System

On November 1, 2022, the Military Council’s Ministry of Transport and Communications issued a tender for setting up the SIM Registration Management System.

According to the tender document, the costs of setting up the SIM Registration Management System will be covered by the Universal Service Fund (USF). Its use deviates from the original purposes of the USF Fund, which are to subsidise the cost of telecommunications infrastructure for regions with high telecommunications installation costs, for poor and vulnerable people, and for emergency communication in rural areas.


Announcement to Revise SIM Card Registration Data before 31 January 2023

On November 3, the military council’s The Mirror (Kyemon) Newspaper reported an announcement from the military council’s communication department. SIM Card registration data with incorrect information must be revised by January 31, 2023.

In the SIM card registration review process, the military council announced that registered data will be checked against the name and NRC number recorded in the National Database of the Ministry of Immigration and Population.

Mizzima News about mandatory SIM card registration by January 31, 2023


Incidents of Phone Lines Being Cut

After the coup, the military has been continuously shutting down the internet and phone lines to limit and control information and communication. During this month, there have been additional phone line cutoff issues:


Military Council Installed Mytel Wifi Routers in Hpakant where Mobile Internet Has Been Cut Off

On November 3, the military council installed Mytel wifi routers in Hpakant region, where the mobile internet was cut off for over a year, according to the report of Kachin News Group. The Mytel company is under the full control of the military council.

According to the news report, the military council has finished installing the routers in Hpakant city and surrounding villages. These wifi routers have a 5 Mbps speed limitation and one router can host only five devices.

Compared to other regions, the military-imposed Mytel wifi routers within the Hpakant region have many restrictions. Moreover, the public has to face the insecurity of using this wifi service which is under the full control of the military council.


Telenor Phone Lines Cut Off in Some Places of Wetlet Township

On November 4, a local news network reported that Telenor phone lines were cut off in Wetlet township. Meanwhile, there were some movements of the military in the Aung Chan Thar Village and Kone Gyi Village of Wetlet township. Ooredoo lines were also cut off on the same day in Tabayin township.


MPT Phone Lines Cut Off in Shwegu Township

On November 9, the Kachin Waves News Agency reported that MPT phone lines were cut off in Shwegu township, coinciding with military movements. According to the report, the military council was sending food and weaponry to the battlefield area of Momauk township by using the Shwegu-Irrawaddy river route.

On November 24, Ooredoo phone lines were cut off in southern parts of Kalay township. On November 27, MPT phone lines were cut off in the northern parts of Htilin township.

The military council has been cutting off mobile communication in areas where they exercise military movement as a security procedure.


Arrests over Online Speech and

Checking Mobile Phones

From first restricting mobile and internet communications, the military council has moved to a doxxing campaign through pro-military media channels to arrest online anti-regime speech. Arrests and on-ground inspections are conducted based on the targeted list from the doxxing campaigns.


Checking Travellers’ Phones by Providing Wifi Access

at a Checkpoint in Thanatpin

On November 14, the military council checked the mobile phones of people passing through the Thanatpin checkpoint by providing wifi internet, according to the report of Lu Nge Khit News Agency. They inspected the Facebook app, Messenger app, and other activities on the phone. The inspection conductors extorted people over their internet activities.


Zoom Class Screenshots and Student List of Interim Basic Education School (Thingangyun) Distributed Through a Pro-military Telegram Channel

On November 23, Zoom class screenshots (including students’ faces) and the student list of the Basic Education School (Thingangyun) were distributed through the Telegram channel of Han Nyein Oo, a popular pro-military lobby account of the military council. Basic Education School (Thingangyun) has been participating in the interim education program developed by the National Unity Government (NUG).

Last July, the military council detained the KFU school teachers and founder. The KFU school had been participating in the NUG interim education program. These actions restrict freedom of education, a basic human right. During the coup, the military council has been suppressing rights to education.


Military Council Arrested a Young Woman in Khamon Kangyi Village,

Kawa Township, Bago Division, over a TikTok Video Mocking Min Aung Hlaing

On November 25, the military council troops entered the Khamon Kangyi village, Kawa township of Bago region and arrested a woman accused of posting a mock video of Min Aung Hlaing on TikTok.

During the coup, the military council has been continuously suppressing freedom of expression and killing journalists. The press freedom group Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) included Myanmar in its annual Global Impunity Index for the first time in 2022. This shows just how harsh the clampdown has been on freedom of expression since the February 1, 2021 coup.


Summary of Digital Oppression Issues

in December 2022

  • Arrests over online speech and checking mobile phones

  • Incidents of phone lines being cut

Arrests over Online Speech and

Checking Mobile Phones

In December 2022, there was an increase in the military council troops’ inspections on the ground. On December 1, the pro-military media persona Han Nyein Oo Telegram channel posted news of people arrested after their mobile phones were checked in Mandalay. Three days later, a case of checking passengers’ mobile phones and NRC cards on buses near Kyarnikan Mingalar Myanmar Monastery, Mandalay was reported.

According to the Mandalay Free Press report on December 7, more than four citizens were arrested and detained between December 1 and 7 due to the presence of the click-to-donate fundraising app for the revolution on their mobile phones.

In a December 13 report of the Mekong News Agency, the “Wave Money” shops in Hlaingtharyar Township, Yangon, were forcefully ordered to record the detailed information of people who wanted to transfer money, such as their names, addresses, and NRC. Moreover, the military council checked the mobile phones of pedestrians passing between Pan Pin Gyi Street and the Night Market in Kyi Myin Daing on December 25.

According to the list of RFA Burmese based on the announcement of the military council, there were over 800 arrests recorded between January and November 2022 due to anti-regime speech on social media.

Mekong News Agency report about new restrictions on digital banking transactions


Incidents of Phone Lines Being Cut

As mentioned above, the military council increased arrests over online speech and checking mobile phones on the ground. Meanwhile, the military has continued shutting down internet and phone lines in targeted areas. The same pattern continued in December.

On the morning of December 4, heavy fighting broke out in Gangaw Township, Magway Region. Following the event, phone lines were cut off in Gangaw, according to a report from the local Magway Scout Network Telegram channel.

On December 18, phone lines were cut in some villages beside Chindwin River, coinciding with military movements there, according to reports from local people.

Beginning on December 20, phone and internet lines were shut down in the Myanmar-China border area of northern Shan state, Muse and Namhkam townships. The military council has also been strictly inspecting the trucks returning from China.

Moreover, on December 14, the Ministry of Communication again announced the order to revise incorrectly-accomplished SIM card registration data with a deadline of January 31, 2023. Although the military council said that SIM registration aims to protect mobile money from fraud, the hidden agenda behind this is to suppress the use of mobile and internet communication in revolutionary mechanisms.


Summary of Digital Oppression Issues

in January 2023

  • Continuous ground inspections and arrests over online speech

  • Leaked news: The oppression agenda from the military council

  • Internet shutdowns

Continuous Ground Inspections and

Arrests over Online Speech

On January 1, a Mekong News Agency report referenced the military council’s statement: five Facebook users, including “Ma Aye Thwe (or) Ma Aye Aye Soe” with the Facebook account name of “Aye Aye Soe”, were charged under the Anti-Terrorism Act and Electronic Communication Act. The actual offline arrest occurred after Han Nyein Oo (a pro-military Telegram channel) called for the arrest and threatened violence. Coordinated arrests based on the doxxing campaign of pro-military accounts have increased.

According to a report from the Thanlwin Times news agency, in Mawlamyine township of Mon State the military council was arresting people who commented, shared, or reacted “like” on the posts of (i) social media accounts of prominent revolutionists; (ii) social media pages of NUG, CRPH, PDF; and (iii) social media pages of news media houses banned by the military council.

The military council has been taking action by using a variety of existing laws, including the Penal Code 505 (A), Anti-terrorism Act 52 (A), the Penal Code 124 (A), and Electronic Communication Act 33(A).

Analysing these issues, it is evident that the basic human rights of freedom of expression have completely diminished under the pressure of the military council.

Than Lwin Times News Agency report about arrests over online speech in Mawlamyine


Leaked News:

The Oppression Agenda from the Military Council

On January 15, a document of the military council secret meeting was leaked. According to the document, the military council discussed a plan to order mobile operators to send an SMS warning people not to play or advertise on the PDF mobile games which have been created to support the revolutionary fund, and not to read anti-regime Facebook pages. Moreover, the Ministry of Transport and Communication sent objection letters to Google and Facebook to close anti-regime accounts on their platforms.

Moreover, it was found that the announcements included a discussion on using intercept technology and collaborating with hackers for surveillance warfare. The military council is collecting census data (the purpose of which is unclear, though it seems to be intended for use in the upcoming sham election). The military council has also discussed inspecting revolutionists while collecting census data.

According to a January 15 report published by the Justice for Myanmar team based on the documents leaked on January 2, it has been found that the NASDAQ-listed Israeli surveillance-for-hire corporation Cognyte Software Limited won a tender for the provision of interception equipment in December 2020 for state-owned mobile operator, Myanmar Posts and Telecommunications (MPT). This is possibly a breach of international and Israeli law and an obvious move to conduct strict surveillance over the public’s information and communication activities.

Due to the slowdown of mobile internet and fibre wifi speed in January, there have been difficulties in connecting to social media and virtual private networks (VPN).

On January 2, the military council announced the closure of passport renewal for the unsubstantiated reason of upgrading the online token acquisition system.


Internet Shutdowns

On January 4, connections for Mytel mobile internet were restored in the Hpakant township of Kachin State, Myemu, Sal Lingyi, Ertao, Ima Pin, Minking, Kant Balu, Katha, Kolin, Butalin, Ye Oo, Depeyin, Khin Oo, Intaw, Kyung Hla townships of Sagaing Region. Since day one of the coup, these areas had been cut off from the internet. On January 5, the military council cut off the internet again in these areas.

Local people bought Mytel SIM cards and spent top-up money to access the internet. They had hoped for access to information, but it only lasted a day. The result was no internet and lost money.


EngageMedia is publishing English translations of the Myanmar Digital Coup Quarterly produced by the Myanmar Internet Project. This post covers updates between November 2022 to January 2023 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.



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