What Life Is Like Under Myanmar's Internet Shutdown

Rumors of a coup had been spreading earlier than the army acted. Sophie*, an American software program developer, was at dwelling along with her younger son and her husband Aung*, a union employee and Myanmar nationwide, when Myanmar’s army took management within the early hours of February 1.

Because the nation’s army leaders arrested Aung San Suu Kyi, president Win Myint, and different senior authorities figures, in addition they deployed a blunt device of censorship: turning off the web. Sophie, who was up early with their son, may nonetheless entry the web at dwelling as solely cellphone information had been restricted. The primary she heard of the coup got here from a New York Occasions article shared by a good friend.

Within the weeks since Myanmar’s army took management, web shutdowns have turn out to be frequent, as documented by internet monitoring group NetBlocks. As protests have grown there have been whole web shutdowns and limits positioned on particular person providers corresponding to Fb and its Messenger app. For most individuals in Myanmar, Fb is the web and is the primary approach individuals entry information and chat with associates.

NetBlocks studies that for the final 12 nights the web has been turned off like clockwork from 1am to 9am. Civil rights group Entry Now says the periodic shutdowns “facilitates abuse by, and impunity for, the army junta.” The shutdowns have been condemned internationally and make Myanmar the newest of more than 30 countries to show off the web in an try to say management.


Folks in Myanmar additionally concern the web shutdowns are getting used to cowl up nighttime arrests and violent crackdowns on protestors. When the shutdowns began the Myanmar division of telecoms operator Telenor began publishing orders it acquired however now says “it’s not attainable.”

The shutdowns have stopped associates and households from speaking and made it arduous for individuals to work. However, extra perniciously than that, it has added to the sense of concern in Myanmar. Sophie has not too long ago returned to the US along with her son whereas the coup is constant, whereas Aung has remained in central Yangon and has been attending protests with 1000’s of others. With the nightly web shutdowns and time distinction with the US, their conversations are restricted and troublesome. Right here they clarify the truth of dwelling by way of the shutdowns. The conversations have been edited for context and readability.

The Coup and First Shutdown

Sophie: We had been in our rental when the coup occurred. I awakened early to take care of my son and one in all my associates from the US had messaged me a New York Occasions article about Aung San Suu Kyi being arrested. I had warned somebody forward of time that if they do not hear from me that I am effective. Everybody was actually afraid and stayed inside.

Aung: I’ve plenty of union employees on my Fb. They had been all offline—the household I used to be speaking to twenty minutes earlier than had been offline too. I couldn’t see something on the web, I couldn’t talk from my cellphone. So I’ve to exit to my balcony to see what is going on on on the road. I may see my neighbor watching cable TV—we don’t personal one—so I shouted throughout asking what was occurring.

Sophie: You’re utterly in the dead of night. There’s nothing to do since you’re so reliant in your cellphone, however you begin to discuss to your neighbors. That first weekend it was utterly shut off. No one had the web, no person had a cellphone connection and we’d hear protesters happening the aspect streets or the primary streets. The ATMs and the banks had been down and it had a huge effect as a result of there isn’t any method to entry cash.

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