Myanmar blocked mobile internet services on Monday, a day after 70 people have been killed in the bloodiest crackdown since the military coup on February 1, reported Radio Free Asia.
The country is experiencing recurring nightly internet blackouts since February 15, according to monitoring service NetBlocks. While internet connectivity was restored at 6:30 a.m. on Monday, NetBlocks said via Twitter that the mobile network remains disabled nationwide.
Security forces brutally repressed protests on Sunday after factories backed by Chinese investors were set ablaze in the Hlaingthaya township in the commercial capital Yangon, informed human rights group Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (AAPP). The total death toll meanwhile climbed to 126, while 2,156 people have been arrested, charged, or sentenced during the six-week crackdown by the military, according to data from AAPP.
Yangon-based author and influencer Win Ko Ko Aung told KrASIA that the internet disruptions pose a worrying trend that shows the military government wants to throttle and stifle dissent online. “The regime wants to scare the protesters with fear so that they can rule and the nationwide protesting will gradually fade away, which was the tactic they used in the 1988 uprising,” he said.
Last week, the authorities stripped five independent digital media outlets of their licenses, namely Myanmar Now, Democratic Voice of Burma (DVB), Mizzima, Khit Thit, and 7 Day. The offices of Kamayut Media, Mizzima, and Myanmar Now were raided shortly after, according to a report by RFA.
“They don’t want the international community to know their true colors and attitude toward their own citizens,” added Win. “They are afraid of more pressure, especially foreign military intervention.”
Amid recurring connectivity issues, the internet economy grinds to a halt. Tech firms including Singapore-based Grab and food delivery platform Foodpanda on Monday suspended their services. “Our transport, food, mart services are temporarily closed,” Grab wrote on its Facebook page. “We will continue to keep you updated. Stay safe, Myanmar!”
Win said that both tech firms and individuals suffer from the disruptions and only traditional companies show resilience. “Even if they are not tech-based business, they all depend on Facebook to market their products and for customer communication.”
Social media, including Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp, and Twitter remain banned in Myanmar “until further notice,” according to a statement issued by telecom firm Telenor last month.