After more than one month of directives to block internet services from 1:00 a.m. until 9:00 a.m. in Myanmar, the junta is now sending nightly orders to telecommunications providers expanding the restrictions.
Since March 15, the junta has escalated its overnight blocks to a nationwide 24-hour ban on mobile internet, as well as many types of Wi-Fi.
A senior official from a mobile telecommunications operator company told Myanmar Now that the junta’s Directorate of Telecommunications has been sending daily directives to further ban internet access and the use of VPNs (Virtual Private Networks).
“Letters ordering us to ban the internet have been coming in at around 7:00 p.m. every night,” the official told Myanmar Now. “Now, thousands of IP addresses have had to be blocked. The internet slowdown is not because of bandwidth reduction. Blocking many IP addresses may slow down the speed of the Internet.”
The official added that the military council’s recent orders were being sent just hours before they were required to be implemented. The order to totally ban mobile internet access starting from Monday morning was only sent at around 11:00 p.m. on Sunday, according to the official.
A telecommunications engineer from another major mobile operator confirmed that the junta had sent VPN lists daily with orders to shut them down.
“In the past, department managers received copies of the directives from the authorities. Later, since the orders were leaked, they sent their orders directly to top level officials of the [telecommunications] companies. So we only were informed about the ban just a few hours in advance,” the engineer said.
A directive dated March 17 from the junta’s Ministry of Transport and Communications was recently circulated on the Internet, ordering Internet operators to ban Wi-Fi services until further notice.
Immediately after the aforementioned directive, internet service company Myanmar Net announced that it would stop providing services for its prepaid internet cards and data packages because of “unexpected difficulties.”
However, monthly subscription plans with customer-provided equipment (CPE) are not included in the ban, according to the Myanmar Net statement, which was issued via the mobile app Viber.
A resident in Lanmadaw Township, a monthly internet subscriber with CPE from the company Frontiir through the internet provider Myanmar Net, said he still had access to the internet at home at the time of reporting.
“The Internet services currently banned are mainly mobile phone internet types,” an engineer from an internet service provider told Myanmar Now. “Ooredoo WBB [Wireless Broadband] and fixed internet like Ananda and Myanmar Net, and DIAs [Direct Internet Access] services have not been banned yet.”
The mobile Internet has been completely banned nationwide since March 15, and consequently, access to information and other services has been limited because of this inaccessibility.
“Without mobile phone internet services, I cannot surf the internet on my phone when I go outside,” a Mandalay resident using fiber optic internet at home told Myanmar Now.
A group of Western ambassadors to Myanmar issued a joint statement on March 19 condemning the shutdown.
“Internet blackouts and the suppression of the media will not hide the military’s abhorrent actions,” the statement said.
It was signed by ambassadors from the Delegation of the EU and European Union Member States with a presence in Myanmar, including Denmark, Czech Republic, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, Spain, and Sweden, as well as the United Kingdom and the United States.
Since the military coup on February 1, an estimated 235 people have been killed across Myanmar in the junta’s bloody crackdowns, and more than 2,300 people have been detained, according to figures compiled by the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners and released on March 19.