By all accounts, there is a coup happening in Myanmar. And as part of the reported efforts to seize power, communications services in Myanmar including the internet have been restricted or cut off all together.
Myanmar’s new parliament was supposed to meet today after its election in November last year.
But instead, an announcement made on the military-owned television station said that the military was taking over the government because of a failure to act on ‘voter fraud’ — an allegation that was made by the military.
A spokesperson for the party that was set to form government, the National League for the Democracy, claims that some of their members of Parliament — including Aung San Suu Kyi — have been been “taken”.
On Monday, Foreign Minister Marise Payne said the Australian Government was “deeply concerned” about the reports.
Breaking – Australia's Foreign Minister @MarisePayne says the Australian Government is "deeply concerned at reports the Myanmar military is once again seeking to seize control" pic.twitter.com/e3NWQkn0Qd— Stephen Dziedzic (@stephendziedzic) February 1, 2021
The first signs that a coup was taking place was the sudden outages of phone lines, television stations and internet connectivity.
Monash University’s IP Observatory is an institute that monitors how internet connections are working around the world.
The institute noted that internet connectivity had plummeted in parts of Myanmar starting at 2AM local time, and outages were growing.
NEW EVENT: Myanmar / to #Feb01 05:30 local (GMT + 6.5H):— Monash IP Observatory (@IP_Observatory) February 1, 2021
. our observations confirm regional outages
. Mandalay (now 26pc); Magway (14pc); Yangon (82pc, falling)
. note: many regions not impacted yet (e.g. Kayin, shown)
. event start: 2am local@Nrg8000 @BBCBreaking @abcnews pic.twitter.com/8TOMkdPAj3
Other users claimed to still have access to some parts of the internet — services like WhatsApp and Twitter continued to work for some, whereas Signal and Telegram stopped working.
While there’s no official confirmation from the military that they were behind the internet outage in Myanmar, it certainly seems as if it was a co-ordinated effort to overturn a democratic election.
Social media and the internet more broadly are crucial for communication and organising. Going back to the Arab Spring protests, the internet has been extremely useful in co-ordinating efforts to push back against a repressive regime. It’s also played a major role in genocide in Myanmar, too.
Restricting or cutting off that access all together provides an enormous advantage for any side hoping to outsmart the other.
If the Myanmar internet outage was intentional — and it would be incredibly coincidental timing if not — it’s an important part of coup attempt that looks like it’s all going to plan.