Myanmar’s Civilian Government Provides Internet in Rebel-Held Territory

By The Irrawaddy 7 February 2023

The civilian National Unity Government (NUG) has started to provide internet in areas under its control, according to its communications, information and technology minister U Htin Lin Aung.

The NUG said it had provided internet in at least 15 townships where the regime has cut off mobile access, enabling the civilian government to administrate and run online schools.

NUG spokesman U Nay Phone Latt told The Irrawaddy: “We are supplying the internet without using regime infrastructure.”

It helps offset the junta’s news blackout and restrictions on information, he said.

“We have not yet been able to provide full internet coverage. Our top priority is for the revolution and the second is for the delivery of public services, including education and health,” U Nay Phone Latt said.

The regime has blocked mobile access in more than 22 townships in Kachin and Chin states and Sagaing and Magwe regions since mid-2021 following escalating armed conflict. The regime has also slowed internet access in other townships.

Civilian-run bodies like the people’s authorities in NUG-controlled areas, including Kantbalu, Kawlin and Katha townships in Sagaing Region, are now reportedly using NUG-supplied internet.

A Kyunhla Township official said: “It helps with the information needed for defense work. We have been able to network more closely with the NUG ministries.”

The majority of Sagaing Region is still offline, said Thazin Khin of Monywa Township People’s Defense Force.

“We have been active in many townships and we don’t see the NUG providing internet. But we don’t know about townships where we don’t operate,” he said.

The Sagaing townships of Kani, Yinmabin, Pale, Ayadaw, Wuntho, Budalin, Pinlebu and Kawlin are offline while Monywa, Sagaing, Kale and Shwebo townships still have internet access.

The research group Top 10 VPN reported last week that Myanmar had the world’s longest internet shutdown. Myanmar was ranked fourth last year in terms of the economic impact of internet shutdowns, with restrictions costing an estimated US$241 million. In 2021 Myanmar was ranked first with junta internet restrictions costing an estimated $2.8 billion.