Burma’s Internet Delays Continue Ahead of 88 Uprising Anniversary

By Naomi Gingold 5 August 2013

RANGOON — After weeks of recurrent Internet breakdowns, Burma’s state-run telecommunications said on Monday morning that the latest slowdown would likely be fixed by the evening, but could take up to two days to repair, as the country prepares to celebrate the 25th anniversary of a major pro-democracy uprising.

Myo Swe, chief engineer of the Information and Technology Department at the state-run Myanmar Posts and Telecommunications (MPT), apologized several times for two new problems disrupting the country’s connectivity. He said an underground fiber-optic cable near the Irrawaddy Delta city of Pyapon has been compromised. The fiber cable is damaged in one location, he said, while the power supply is down in another.

The timing of the Internet delays has left some in the country wondering whether the government is attempting to purposely hinder communication ahead of the 25th anniversary of the Aug. 8, 1988 uprising, only three days away.

When asked to comment on the allegation, the MPT’s Myo Swe laughed and said the Internet issues were not related to the anniversary, adding that government officials had urged him to fix the problem as soon as possible.  He said he hoped Internet speeds would be back to normal by Monday night but added that the problem might not be completely fixed for a day or two.

The engineer also apologized to businesses in the country for the frequent Internet delays but said there were no plans at the moment to increase robustness.

The high-end Traders Hotel in Rangoon, which has a reputation locally for its fast Internet speed and seemingly unbreakable WiFi, maintained its connectivity on Monday morning, albeit slightly slowed, but some other businesses in the city were not so lucky. The hotel’s manager of information and technology declined to comment on why the hotel’s Internet connection was so robust compared to other nearby businesses.