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  • Myanmar Internet Project

Myanmar Digital Coup Quarterly: February 2024 - April 2024

Updated: 5 days ago



The coup, which started on 1st February 2021, has been ongoing for 3 years and 3 months now. Reflecting on this period, it’s evident that the momentum of the revolution has grown in direct proportion to its duration, with each passing day witnessing an escalation in its force. Notably, the concerted efforts of ethnic armed revolutionary groups have resulted in the loss of several regions in Northern Shan State, Kachin State, and Rakhine State for the regime, showcasing the significant momentum behind the revolution.

In a desperate attempt to bolster their dwindling forces, the junta has resorted to recklessly enforcing the Conscription Law, despite widespread condemnation across the nation. This serves as undeniable evidence of the regime's determination to cling to power at any cost. Through various oppressive tactics, they persist in suppressing dissent and maintaining their grip on authority.

Among the myriad forms of oppression, the digital realm faces particularly severe restrictions. Fearful of criticism and exposure, the regime vehemently opposes the free flow of information facilitated by digital platforms. They view the digital sphere as a threat to their narrative and are actively working to stifle its influence.

This article describes the phenomenon of digital repression and the related incidents that occurred between February 2024 and April 2024.


Summary of Digital Oppression Issues in February 2024

(a) Shutting down mobile and internet connections

(b) Arrests limiting freedom of expression

(c) Attempts to enforce surveillance and monitoring of citizens

(d) Additional noteworthy events in the digital domain during February 2024


(a) Shutting Down Mobile and Internet Connections

Frequent shutdowns of mobile and internet connections by the regime aim to deprive the people of access to information, suppress news from within the country, and disrupt communication among pro-democracy movements.

During intense clashes between the junta troops and revolutionary forces in Kawlin, mobile and internet connections were deliberately cut off.

Following escalating conflicts between the Arakan Army (AA) and the Military Council, the regime imposed mobile and internet blackouts in numerous Rakhine townships, including Sittwe. Infrastructure such as the Min Chaung Bridge linking Sittwe City and Ponnar Kyun City was destroyed using mines, and the Kispanadi Bridge in Kyauktaw was bombed, further isolating these areas.

Reports from the Saganing Scout Telegram Channel indicated mobile shutdowns in southern regions of Kalay City. Additionally, the Yangon Electricity Supply Corporation (YESC) removed fiber and wifi cables in North Dagon Township, Yangon, specifically in Bayint Naung Street between Pinlon Street and Ta Pin Shwe Htee Street.

These communication disruptions not only endanger refugees but also impede rescue and humanitarian efforts.


(b) Arrests Limiting Freedom of Expression

The regime is actively disrupting the flow of news and communication while simultaneously conducting monthly arrests based on social media surveillance to suppress criticism against the regime.

Among those arrested were young individuals who documented a silent strike commemorating the third anniversary of the military coup. In one instance, an 18-year-old named Yoon Sandi Maung from Myayinandar residence, Chanmyatharsi Township, Mandalay City, was assaulted and detained by junta troops and armed individuals in civilian attire after expressing condolences for two young men who were burned alive in Myaukkhinyan village, Gangaw Township, Magway District.

According to Data for Myanmar, approximately 1,500 individuals have been arrested over the past two years for criticising the regime on platforms such as Facebook, TikTok, and Telegram. These statistics underscore the significant erosion of freedom of expression for the people of Myanmar since the coup.

In addition to monitoring social media, junta troops are conducting searches of mobile devices to identify any stored data expressing dissent against the coup, leading to further arrests. The Myingyan pro-democracy committee reported a raid by junta troops in Kan Swal Village, Myingyan Township, Mandalay District, where approximately 500 mobile devices were confiscated from residents. Furthermore, a pro-regime Telegram Channel named Kyaw Swar advocated for the inspection of travelers' mobile devices. Regime-controlled Telegram Media Channels such as the Ministry of Information (MOI) and Myanma Alinn Newspaper announced the arrest of 31 individuals in March 2024 for criticising the regime on social media.


(c) Attempts to Enforce Surveillance and Monitoring of Citizens

In addition to cutting off mobile and internet access and monitoring online dissent, the regime is intensifying efforts to collect data for mass surveillance of the populace.

They are pursuing the acquisition of citizens' biodata through the issuance of Smart Cards, employing various methods to implement a nationwide Smart Card system. Under the pretext of preparing for elections, the regime is gathering family and population data to facilitate Smart Card distribution in Pathein City, Irrawaddy District. Furthermore, individuals applying for passports are compelled to provide their Smart Card numbers.

The regime is slated to conduct a nationwide census in October 2024, aiming to compile an initial population report by December 2024.


(d) Additional Noteworthy Events in the Digital Domain During February 2024

On February 1, 2024, the United States imposed sanctions on U Thein Win Zaw, the founder of Shwe Byain Phyu Group, shortly after the group's acquisition of Telenor Myanmar. Prior to the sanctions, Shwe Byain Phyu Group transferred ownership of ATOM stocks to Myancom Holding Ltd, and individuals from the group were removed from ATOM's board of directors. ATOM clarified that they “do not engage with any sanctioned entities and do not appoint individuals or groups under sanctions to ownership or senior management positions."

In a significant development, Mytel Pay, owned by a prominent military-owned telecommunications company Mytel Telecom, has partnered with Myanma Tourism Bank to establish a digital payment system, signing a formal agreement for the collaboration.


Summary of Digital Oppression Issues in March 2024

(a) Shutting down mobile and internet connections

(b) Increased restrictions on online broadcasts

(c) Arrests limiting freedom of expression


(a) Shutting Down Mobile and Internet Connections

Throughout March 2024, the regime intensified its campaign of shutting down mobile and internet connections across various regions.

During the escalation of clashes between the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) and junta troops, mobile and internet services were disrupted in nearly all cities in Kachin State, including Myitkyina City. Similar incidents occurred in the southern areas of Kalay City last month.

The Independent Mon News Agency reported that over 20 villages in the Yaychaungphyar region of Ye Township, Mon State, lost internet connectivity. Additionally, according to Taungyi Spring Telegram Channel, the Pa'O region in Southern Shan State experienced frequent internet shutdowns, affecting cities such as Hsihseng, Hopong, Naung Tayar, Paung Laung, and Pin Laung, where severe clashes against junta troops took place.

In Thin Gan Nyi Naung City, Myawaddy Township, Karen State, where the Karen National Liberation Army (KNLA) alliances were attacking junta troops since March 7, mobile and internet connections were severed. Furthermore, in the Kyaukme region, cell towers ceased functioning due to a lack of gas, leading to the disruption of some mobile services. Western News reported that the regime is compiling lists of young people for enlistment while simultaneously cutting off internet access in Ann Township, Rakhine.

A survey conducted by Athan Team revealed that approximately 80 townships experienced disruptions in mobile and internet services. The international community has taken notice of the escalating internet shutdowns. Professor Yanghee Lee, a founding member of the Special Advisory Council for Myanmar, has called on Elon Musk on Twitter to provide free internet access for pro-democratic ethnic revolutionary organizations.


(b) Increased Restrictions on Online Broadcasts

The regime's digital oppression encompasses restrictions on individual freedom of expression, network disruptions, and various forms of media censorship.

Additionally, they have imposed regulations on the broadcasting of films via social media platforms. To broadcast films, individuals must obtain a license, and failure to do so will result in violations of the Essential Goods and Services Act-5, as stated by the Regime's Ministry of Information.



Statement from the Ministry of Information showing

that the broadcasting films on social media platforms is considered an essential service


(c) Arrests Limiting Freedom of Expression

Arrests continue to stifle freedom of expression, with the Military Council targeting individuals who expose inconvenient truths.

Myanmar's economy is visibly declining, marked by a steep depreciation of the national currency and a surge in exchange rates. The Central Bank of Myanmar has issued threats against social media platforms and websites that share real-time currency exchange information, citing their role in destabilizing currency markets.

Regime-controlled Telegram Media Channels, including the Ministry of Information (MOI) and Myanma Alinn Newspaper, reported the arrest of 31 individuals in March 2024 for criticising the regime on social media. 


Summary of Digital Oppression Issues in April 2024

(a) Shutting down mobile and internet connections

(b) Attempts to enforce surveillance and monitoring of citizens

(c) Incidents concerning communications

(d) Sensitive human rights issues related to the National Unity Government (NUG)

and revolutionary forces.


(a) Shutting Down Mobile and Internet Connections

Reports from media outlets indicate that in April 2024, the Military Council continued its expansion of mobile and internet shutdowns.

In Kachin State, including Myitkyina, mobile connections were severed amid escalating clashes between the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) and junta troops. This follows similar shutdowns across almost all of Kachin State on March 1, 2024.

Following significant losses in the important border trading region of Myawaddy City, the regime implemented a mobile connection blackout in the area. Additionally, the People’s Spring Telegram Channel reported similar shutdowns in Kalay City, Sagaing District, which has frequently experienced disruptions under the regime's control.

In Pauk City, the lack of petroleum at the MPT office led to mobile connection outages. Similar blackouts affected Mindat City and surrounding regions, including Kyaukhtu and Yaw City.


(b) Attempts to Enforce Surveillance and Monitoring of Citizens

Since the coup, the regime has sought to suppress the flow of information and is now aggressively advancing mass surveillance initiatives. The implementation of the e-ID process is a key component of these efforts, as the regime aims to gather citizens' biodata for use in mass surveillance. With a substantial amount of biodata already collected, the regime has begun monitoring citizens using this information.

In a recent announcement, the regime declared that citizens must possess an e-ID in addition to their National ID cards to cross borders. From the second week of April onwards, the regime began blocking border passes to Mae Sai City, Thailand, for individuals listed as participants in the Civil Disobedient Movement, particularly those departing from Tarchilake City No (1) Thai–Myanmar Friendship Bridge. These actions are reportedly linked to data obtained through the e-ID program. Additionally, an information security agreement between Myanmar and Russia is set to commence this year.

Regime-controlled Telegram Media Channels, including the Ministry of Information (MOI) and Myanmar Newspaper, reported the arrest of 20 individuals in April 2024 for criticising the regime on social media.

Furthermore, the regime's Ministry of Information announced increased monitoring of social media broadcasts and has pressed charges against individuals for posting songs deemed inappropriate for Myanmar culture. Notably, singer May Thu, comedian OK, and other associated individuals involved in creating and broadcasting the song 'Beer Belly' were charged with violating the Myanmar Electronic Transaction Act – 33(A). Two additional songs faced similar charges under the same act, bringing the total to three songs charged this month.


(c) Incidents Concerning Communications

Following the coup, Myanmar's telecommunications sector has experienced significant deterioration, exacerbated by the withdrawal of foreign investments. There are reports suggesting that Telenor left Myanmar due to pressure to intercept calls on behalf of the regime.

In recent developments, Malaysia-based cell tower service company Axiata Group has begun preparations to withdraw from Myanmar. Additionally, Japanese telecom group KDDI, in cooperation with MPT, has reported financial losses. MPT is exploring the initiation of eSIM services in collaboration with XH Smart Tech Company from China. Users of MPT services abroad have encountered roaming service errors, attributed by MPT to the SE-ME-WE5 error.



MPT's response message regarding roaming service errors


Myanmar's telecommunications sector is witnessing a rapid decline in the aftermath of the coup.


(d) Sensitive Human Rights Issues Related to the National Unity Government (NUG) and Revolutionary Forces

With the rapid advancement of technology, digital tools have become integral to every individual's social life, raising concerns among governments and policymakers about protecting digital rights. United Nations resolutions universally emphasise the implementation of human rights in both digital and non-digital domains.

Among these human rights, freedom of expression stands as a cornerstone of democracy, particularly crucial in the context of digital freedoms. However, recent actions, such as the Media Code of Conduct issued by The Karenni State Interim Executive Council (IEC) on April 16, 2024, and restrictions imposed by the Karen National Union (KNU) on external media outlets reporting on KNU regions, present paradoxes for press freedom.

In response, the Independent Press Council Myanmar (IPCM) has issued a statement advocating for journalists' safety, press freedom, and the freedom to report news in conflict areas and regions governed by ethnic revolutionary organisations.

Furthermore, the Ye-U Township Board of Education, operating under the supervision of the Ministry of Education of the National Unity Government (NGU), has announced fines of 3-5 lakhs kyats for students wishing to transfer from regime-controlled schools to People's schools. Education is a fundamental human right, and governments must adhere to international human rights standards to maintain their integrity. Therefore, it is imperative for the government to meticulously oversee the statements issued by organisations operating under its authority.


EngageMedia is publishing English translations of the Myanmar Digital Coup Quarterly produced by the Myanmar Internet Project. This post covers updates between February 2024 to April 2024 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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