Myanmar’s military regime has cut off internet access in several townships in Sagaing and Mandalay regions. The affected townships are strongholds of anti-regime resistance groups who have inflicted heavy casualties on junta forces.
Mobile and wifi internet services from Myanmar’s three main telecom operators – MPT, Telenor and Oredoo – have been blocked since 12.30pm Tuesday in Kani, Mingin, Yinmabin, Pale, Shwebo and Budalin townships in Sagaing, and Mogoke and Myingyan townships in Mandalay Region.
In the three months from June to August, more than 840 junta soldiers were killed and 355 wounded in Sagaing Region in clashes with local People’s Defense Forces (PDF).
184 civilians in Sagaing have also been slain and 49 wounded by junta forces, according to the parallel National Unity Government. Myanmar military forces are also facing intense opposition from resistance groups in Mandalay’s Mogoke and Myingyan townships.
Junta-owned Mytel telecom masts have also been destroyed across the country, including in Sagaing and Mandalay regions, since last week.
A resident of Sagaing’s Yinmabin Township said that civilian resistance fighters have managed to defeat junta troops in every clash in the region, because locals and resistance groups are sharing every movement of regime forces online.
“Actually, they [junta forces] block the internet access as they are afraid of the people [sharing information],” said the resident.
Before the internet blackout, some Facebook users and Facebook pages from Sagaing Region were actively sharing information about regime troop movements in order to have advance notice of potential raids.
A spokesperson for the Kani-PDF told The Irrawaddy that the internet blackout likely means that the junta is planning to attack civilian resistance forces in the region, and wants to ensure that locals don’t share information about troop movements.
Junta soldiers have been raiding villages in Kani Township over the last few days, while several Myanmar military gunboats have been patrolling the Chindwin River and helicopters have been hovering overhead.
“They are frightening the people here by blocking the internet and the information flow. They also frighten us with their helicopters, drones and gunboats. This is a kind of psychological war against our people,” the spokesperson for the Kani-PDF told The Irrawaddy on Wednesday.
In August, junta forces raided a series of villages in Kani after blocking phone and internet access.
Many locals are also concerned that the internet blackout means that the regime is more likely to use intense violence on anti-regime strongholds in the region.
Since August, internet access has also been cut by the junta in the jade-mining town of Hpakant, Kachin State.
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