Hpakant Grapples With Prolonged Internet Blackout

In Hpakant Township, an area in Kachin State rich in jade where traders rely on the internet to buy and sell the valuable mineral, connectivity has been suspended for eight months.

Resident Naw Naw said the internet outage has caused many social, economic, health and educational problems for Hpakant residents since it was shut down last August. “Jade sellers and buyers used the mobile app WeChat for transactions, but without the internet we lost a lot of business.”

He said they can’t contact relatives and their children can’t study online. After the coup, when schools closed, students could keep up with their studies with online classes, but all that changed when the regime turned off connectivity.

“In the age of information technology, the military regime shut down the internet service. I think this is a human rights violation; I feel we’ve lost our rights as citizens.”

On 4 April, the junta allowed Mytel SIMs to connect. However, the service was switched off again on 18 April. The telecommunications company is a joint venture between the military and Viettel, owned by the Vietnamese Ministry of Defence.

On Wednesday 20 April, residents of the township gathered to protest against the disconnection.

After the Burma Army suffered numerous casualties during fighting with the Kachin Independence Army and People’s Defence Force, the junta has shut down mobile internet in the township.

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