Disconnections and Vanishing Rights

March 28, 2023


In the wake of the military attempted coup on February 1st, 2021, the military in Myanmar has utilized both short and long-term internet outages to cut off communication among the public for political purposes. Certain regions and states have experienced internet blackouts since August 2021, while these regions experienced phone line disconnection since mid-2022. These outages have been conducted for military purposes in some regions, while others have been impacted by delays in goods flow and fuel shortages due to restrictions on freedom of movement. Our analysis has revealed that mobile data and networks have been shut down in six states and regions of Myanmar by the brutal military as of 2022. As a result, there is a lack of information flow and the ability to access and share information among the public in a timely manner, leading to a risk of misinformation. Furthermore, cutting off internet access has a significant impact on the economy, education, health, and daily social life, resulting in job scarcity, rising commodity prices, and the lack of access to education and public health. This communication shutdown in Myanmar has also affected the ASEAN region’s communication sector, disrupting the real-time information flow in the area.


Athan’s 2022 report, “Internet Access Amid Darkness and Living Under Threats,” has detailed three ways in which Myanmar’s internet access has been cut since February 2021. Firstly, there have been instances of connection blackouts lasting several days. Secondly, there have been specific periods or days when the internet has been shut down. Lastly, the military junta has implemented restrictions on internet speed and increased internet fee rates. The report reveals that the military junta has been using more tactics to control information flow for their military and political purposes. As of mid-2022, the junta has also temporarily shut down phone line services in some rural areas and even in urban cities, particularly in conflicted areas. Restricted internet and phone line access have had negative consequences such as slowed transportation of goods, higher prices of commodities, and fuel supply shortages.

Loss of Connectivity in Armed Conflict Areas

On January 7th, 2023, the military junta in Myanmar shut down all mobile networks in Mindat and Matupi townships located in Chin State, where there was an ongoing conflict2. They also shut down all mobile networks even before and after conflicts. Mindat township in Chin State experienced mobile data and network shutdown for 20 days earlier before the military did air bombardment in the area on 21 January 20233. Similarly, all villages in the Kawkareik township in Kayin State 3experienced the same internet blackouts during air strikes in October 2022.4

Blackout as the Aftermaths of Transport Restrictions

The military junta’s restrictions on transportation access in some areas of Myanmar have severely impacted the supply of fuel and basic goods. The shortage of fuel has disrupted the operation of telecom towers, resulting in mobile data and networks being unavailable in some areas. In November 2022, the telecom towers in Maungdaw township of Rakhine State were not well functioning, leading to disconnections of phone lines5. Additionally, the military junta has blocked the troll gates at Matupi, making trucks impossible to enter. This has further exacerbated the fuel supply shortage and led the MPT telecom tower to stop functioning and the MPT services became unavailable.6

Internet Shutdown as Psywar of Military

Since 2022, it has been observed that the military junta is using the internet and network blackouts as a tool for mentally suppressing civilians for their political gain. The military Junta reopened internet access in Sagaing and Kachin where the internet has been cut off on National Significant Days such as Independence Day (4th January). People in these areas were excited and purchased phone sim cards and internet data packages to connect with their friends and relatives. However, all connections were shut down again at around 10:00 p.m. on 5th January, leaving the people in these regions frustrated and isolated. The military junta is using these tactics to suppress the flow of information and restrict freedom of expression through psychological warfare.

The Fall of Operators

Following the military attempted coup, all communication companies in the country came under military control in 2022. This included international companies such as Telenor Myanmar which has been sold to Shwe Byine Phyu Company, M1 Group with close ties to the military (and renamed as ATOM Myanmar on 2nd June 2022), and Ooredoo Myanmar which had been sold to Nine Communications Pte Ltd. Media outlets reported that Nine Communications has close business ties to the military.

Deterioration of socio-economic lives

The internet and mobile network shutdowns in conflict areas of Myanmar have resulted in a severe lack of access to news and information. This has had deadly consequences for many civilians, particularly in areas where the military is engaged in conflict with local People’s Defense Forces (PDF). With no means of being informed of military raids or approaching convoys, civilians are at increased risk of being caught in the crossfire and suffering harm or death.One villager from Gangaw township reported that the military had conducted raids on their village, burning homes and killing civilians with impunity due to the lack of information flow caused by the internet shutdown. Although civilians have captured photos and videos of military crimes against them,they cannot easily share them with others due to the lack of internet access. As a result, the military continues to commit human rights violations against civilians, who have no means of reporting or sharing their experiences.

In an interview answer with the RFA news agency, a villager from the Hnan Khar Village, Gangaw township said that“the attack always comes once a month or sometimes twice a month after the internet shutdown. Due to the lack of information flow, the sudden attack makes civilians got caught easily, detained, tortured, and even killed. In my experience, the attack conducted raids by burning down houses and killing civilians as they wish.” Civilians suffer a lot as they have no access to mobile data and network. Although civilians keep photos and videos of the military crimes against civilians, they could not share to others easily as there was no internet access, and later those records were deleted as they were afraid to store for long time. The armed forces of Junta are 11blatantly engaging in acts that constitute violations of the laws of war, while the general populace is experiencing severe limitations in disseminating accurate information, resulting in grave infringements on human rights.

Internet at Extreme Fee

Although there is not heavy fighting observed in Hpakant of Kachin State, the internet has been shut down over 500 days. The ones who want to use internet need to go to the internet shops at a cost of 5,000 to 10,000 kyats per hour. At the same time, the military rapidly has been installing a vast 12amount of Mytel Wi-fi instead of mobile data.

Economic Decline and Internet Shutdown

Samuel Woodhams, a leader of Global Digital Rights from Top 10 VPN told the ASEAN Post that “Internet shutdowns hurt the entire economy: from small businesses to large multinational banks. As the digital economy continues to grow, the costs of internet shutdowns continue to worsen. Internet shutdowns represent a significant act of economic self-harm.”

He also stated that “Through highlighting the economic impact of internet shutdowns, we hope that governments will be less inclined to implement this counterproductive measure. Additionally, internet shutdowns represent a flagrant disregard for fundamental human rights, including the right to freedom of expression and right to information, which are universal and inalienable.”

The internet shutdown in Myanmar has had a severe impact on the country’s economy, with unemployment and lower household incomes being among the most significant consequences. The agriculture sector has also suffered, as farmers were unable to access updated market prices to trade their crops. Moreover, in areas with mobile data shutdowns, firefights frequently break out, making 15it difficult for locals to farm, which has led to concerns about rice scarcity in the coming year. Additionally, the shutdown has delayed the flow of commodities and blocked transport, which has contributed to the risk of rising prices.

Internet Shutdown and Collapse of Health and Education Sectors

In education sector, schools are not normally operated, and students fled without attending schools due to the conflicts in areas with mobile data shutdown. On the other hand, they do not have access to any online learning as the internet is cut off. During the post-COVID period, international students from middle and high schools to university level are learning through virtual or in person exchange programs whereas Myanmar students could not even do self- learning and lose their right to education. The loss of the right to education is just one example of how the crisis in Myanmar is more than just a political problem. It is imperative that international educational organizations take notice of this issue and work together to restore the right to education for Myanmar’s children.

The collapse of the public healthcare sector in Myanmar is a direct result of the internet shutdown and ongoing conflicts. The public healthcare system was already in a precarious state following the attempted coup in 2021. The lack of internet access means that people in areas without connectivity are unable to access reliable health-related news and information. This has resulted in a significant number of individuals having no access to basic public healthcare services, as well as being unable to search for important health information.

Impact on ASEAN Region

The association aims “to accelerate economic growth, social progress and cultural development in the region and to promote regional peace and stability through abiding respect for justice and the rule of law in the relationship among countries in the region”. However, the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation in Southeast Asia (TAC), which is based on the principle of non-interference in the internal affairs of member states, appears to provide support for the Myanmar military to continue their undemocratic and human rights-violating actions without consequences. Additionally, even within the ASEAN region, the equal right to access communication channels is being violated by the military.

The internal political situation in Myanmar has resulted in a contradiction between the objectives of ASEAN and its fundamental principles, as well as a delay in the implementation process for resolving the situation. The military’s violation of the regional equal right to use communication channels goes against ASEAN’s goal of accelerating economic growth, social progress, and cultural development in the region while promoting peace and stability. Furthermore, the military’s disregard for democracy and human rights by shutting down internet access has hindered progress in these areas. The non-interference principle makes it challenging to implement the objectives of ASEAN, including resolving disputes peacefully and promoting diversity.

The current political situation in Myanmar has led to a major challenge for ASEAN in terms of the violation of digital rights, which are considered to be basic human rights. The internet is a crucial tool for global development and it is impossible to cover up injustices committed by the military junta in this digital age. However, the Military Junta is using the principle of “the most weapons always win” to kill thousands of civilians and cut off the internet, in order to conceal their brutal violence against humanity. This disharmony has a significant impact on ASEAN, as it is the closest association to Myanmar. If action is not taken promptly to address the violations of democracy and human rights, it will likely result in the worst violations of human rights. As Myanmar is an important part of the ASEAN community, the continued violation of equal access to communication channels will ultimately lead to disharmony in the regional communication sector, making it difficult to collect and validate accurate data on the people of ASEAN.


In today’s world, the internal affairs of a country have a significant impact not only on its neighboring countries but also on other countries with strong and deep relationships. The primary objective of a country’s sovereignty is to protect the interests of its people and community within its borders, which has become a controversial issue in the case of Myanmar. Despite foreign countries’ attempts to provide humanitarian assistance for the loss of life and property within the country’s sovereign borders, their efforts are limited by the principles of Myanmar’s sovereignty as it exists as an independent country. As a result, the people of Myanmar suffer significant losses due to this lack of power.

Research Methodology and Challenges

This research paper focuses on the impact of the mobile data and network shutdown in several townships across Myanmar following the attempted military coup. The data was collected from ground information and 46 online media daily monitoring and highlights the resulting damages and losses in socio-economic areas, as well as education and healthcare rights. However, due to conflict in some regions and the shutdown of mobile phone lines, the researchers were unable to conduct on-site surveys and had difficulty in contacting locals during the time of the shutdown. It is possible that there are more regions affected by the information blockade that have not been included in the data gathered by the team.

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