Myanmar Military Cutting Off Internet Access To Maintain Its Power

The military regime in Myanmar has recently cut off internet access in Hpakant, Kachin State.
A recent outage of mobile internet services was followed by a shutdown of WiFi internet hours later, residents reported. It is unclear why internet services were blocked or when they would resume, according to locals.
As well as the internet being down, we can’t make phone calls or send SMS. We can’t top up our mobile phones either. Historically, when the internet is shut down in Hpakant it usually means military operations are underway, so we are concerned,” said a female resident who requested anonymity.
The police from Police Battalion 30 based in Seik Mu village on the outskirts of Hpakant have joined the Hpakant Township police force. In the same evening, the ethnic armed group Kachin Independence Army (KIA) set fire to the police battalion barracks in Seik Mu.
Residents reported seeing Junta soldiers patrolling in Hpakant at midnight following the Internet shutdown. Previously, they normally stayed in their outposts at midnight.
They are patrolling almost every night now. My house is by the road and I couldn’t sleep once they drove by. Around 40 to 50 of them drove past around 2am today,” said a resident of Lone Khin village.
Residents said they felt unsafe discussing the situation on the phone because the military regime eavesdropped. The junta instructed telecom and internet service providers to install spyware that allows the military to read text messages, emails, and other web traffic, as well as track users’ locations.
According to a resident of Hpakant, some people have recently left the town out of fear of fighting. It is also rumored that the military regime set up checkpoints to isolate Hpakant.
Rakhine’s telecom operators were also ordered to restrict internet access from June 2019 until the February 1 coup, as the military was fighting with the Arakan Army, an ethnic armed group.
Zaw Min Tun, a spokesperson for the regime in Hpakant, denied there was a blackout of the Internet. He said there is no internet shutdown in any part of the country.
According to the military spokesman, any military operation in Hpakant is being conducted in response to attacks by the KIA and the local People’s Defense Force.
Hpakant has the world’s largest deposits of high-quality jade, as well as gold and other precious gems. In Hpakant, all jade mining companies have ties to Myanmar’s military or the KIA.
Prospectors are required to pay taxes to both the military and the KIA if they find jade or precious gems, and both rely on Hpakant’s mines for funding.
Hpakant is home to KIA brigades 6 and 26, as well as battalions under the command of the Myanmar military’s Division 33.
A KIA attack on July 29 forced the military’s Battalion 58 to shell nearby villages every night from August 3 to August 19, which separated Waingmaw Township from the state capital Myitkyina. Four villages near the battalion’s base have been shelled daily, forcing residents to flee their homes.
Colonel Naw Bu, KIA’s information officer, said the regime has reinforced its forces continuously. Approximately 5,000 more soldiers were brought in after the coup, and hundreds more are being sent either by road or by the river, he said.
Residents of Hpakant have formed anti-regime protest groups in their wards and villages to organize daily demonstrations and other forms of defiance against the junta. Despite the internet shutdown, residents of Hpakant continue to protest against the coup.

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