Yangon (Chindwin): Anti-coup activists have destroyed more than 40 communications towers in Myanmar following the call for a nationwide revolt against the military junta was announced by the shadow government, also known as National Unity Government on 07 Sept.
NUG acting President Duwa Lashi La on 07 Sept delivered a video recorded message to the nation from an undisclosed location urging citizens to rise up and revolt against the military junta and to target military assets. The call to arms has been interpreted by many civilians in Myanmar as a call to all-out civil war.
Fighting is escalating across the country, with Chin State, Sagaing and Magwe regions reporting a massive movement of internally displaced people (IDPs).
So far, around 44 telecoms towers have been destroyed by anti-coup activists and People Defense Force militias.
Of the total towers destroyed, it is learned that 35 are MyTel, with two being jointly operated by MyTel and other operators, and five are owned by Qatar’s Ooredoo and Norway’s Telenor.
PDF clarifies that the sole aim of destroying the targeted telecoms towers is to stop the revenue of MyTel to the junta. Within two years of its establishment in 2018, MyTel gained than 10 million subscribers by the end of 2020 and posted a US $25 million profit in the first quarter of 2020.
At today’s press conference, Mr Zaw Min Tun said “destroying telecom towers is an act of extremists, liking the PDF to the Afghan Taliban group. There will be no other option than to punish those responsible for destroying MyTel telecoms towers with capital punishment”. Mr Zaw Min Tun added that “the PDF’s actions are seemingly like the terrorist ISIS and Taliban, bringing the country to total ruin. Our head of caretaker Government already made clear in a meeting yesterday that destroying telecommunications towers are not beneficial. If PDF continues to commit this kind of violent act, State Administrative Council will make a law that targets PDF and their family members for imprisonment and facing capital punishment”.
War of words
The Committee Representing Phydaungsu Hluttaw (CRPH) was formed by a group of NLD lawmakers and officially elected members of Parliament ousted in the coup on 05 Feb intending to carry out the official duties of the Parliament as elected by the people. However, the junta called the Committee an unlawful association on 21 March.
Two months later, the CRPH formed the National Unity Government (NUG), which includes a number of ethnic representatives, on 14 April. NUG quickly made a statement calling the State Administrative Council (SAC) an illegitimate organization on 26 April.
In response to this move, SAC declared CRPH, NUG, People Defense Forces (PDF) and all their subordinate’s terrorist groups on 08 May under the Myanmar Counter Terrorism Law, accusing these groups of instigating the country’s instability.
If arrested under this law, created by the military junta, those participating in CPRH, NUG, People Defense Forces and other civilian defense forces can face 10 years or life-time imprisonment.
At the press conference, the spokesperson Zaw Min Tun said “NUG and its affiliates are nearly failing. That is why they are attempting to keep up efforts to catch international attention, vowing to punish those responsible for destroying the communication networks that are helping to improve the lives of people”.
The two sides have employed words of “illegal” and “unlawful” against each other. People today are well informed about the current political crisis, unlike what had happened during the Student’s Uprising in 1989.
Connections to Military
MyTel is not a normal commercial venture. It represents a tie-up between the militaries of Myanmar and Vietnam. Mytel gives Myanmar’s generals access to money, technology, and data which they can use for military purposes, according to Justice for Myanmar (JFM).
JFM also revealed that Khin Thiri Thet Mon, the daughter of junta leader Min Aung Hlaing was a shareholder in Pinnacle Asia – a company that built towers for MyTel. US sanctions hit Khin Thiri Thet Mon in March after the military brutally killed peaceful protestors.
Mytel was granted a telecommunications license on 12 January 2017. The company is operated as a joint venture, 49% owned by Viettel, which is controlled by the Vietnamese military, 28% owned by Star High Public Company, which is owned by the Burmese military’s Myanmar Economic Corporation (MEC), and the remaining 23% owned by Myanmar National Telecom Holding Public Co Ltd. Since the coup, a campaign to boycott military-owned enterprises, businesses and individuals associating with the military has been led by the Generation Z; Chindwin has learned that the boycott campaign results in disrupting many businesses that have ties with the military.