After losing many of its military camps along the highway from Myitkyina to Bhamo, including its crucial Gangdau Yang base, in recent weeks, State Administration Council (SAC) has suspended connectivity across Kachin State before escalating attacks against Kachin Independence Organisation/Kachin Independence Army’s (KIO/KIA) Laiza headquarters along the border with China.
KIA/KIO and People’s Defence Force (PDF) snatched the strategically important Gangdau Yang camp, a position Burma’s military had maintained for a decade, from demoralized SAC forces within three hours of fighting on October 31.
Many couldn’t believe how quickly the resistance forces were able to capture the well-fortified camp where soldiers had dug many bunkers and trenches. However, the enemy has lost its confidence and thus the will to fight back against Kachin soldiers after many bases and towns across the country were lost since resistance forces responded to the resounding success of the 1027 Operation launched by the Three Brotherhoods Alliance in northern Shan State on October 27.
After SAC mouthpieces like MRTV, Myawaddy TV, and its newspapers reported the regime losing patience, warning it would respond forcefully, the regime began pounding Laiza with constant bombardments from jet fighters and artillery strikes from hilltop positions on Hkayar, Bum Re day and night. Coinciding with these offensives, SAC’s Light Infantry Battalion (LIB) 321 in Waingmaw Township has been raining artillery on KIO/KIA troops protecting frontline villages Namsan Yang and Awng Ja located close to the headquarters.
A young political activist requesting anonymity said cellular services were shut off after Kachin forces launched at least ten drone attacks on LIB 321 in Shwe Nyaung Pin on November 8. He said that only Telenor is available, but its service is spotty, and he can’t connect to the internet on his cell phone from his area.
An anonymous Kachin political analyst said, “They assume that KIO/KIA is playing a crucial role in offensives by PDF(s) in Sagaing Region and at the same time, KIO/KIA has attacked SAC in northern Shan State.” He explained cutting the flow of information to the state was their first step before launching its operation against the Kachin armed group’s headquarters.
Almost two weeks ago, KIA and PDF captured Kampat in Tamu District in Sagaing Region and a few days later Kawlin, the first district-level town seized after the coup.
In June 2019, the military pulled the same move cutting connectivity in northern Rakhine and southern Chin states before launching a major offensive operation against Arakan Army (AA), which is a member of Three Brotherhoods Alliance.
And after the military coup, SAC suspended the internet service in townships in Sagaing Region, which borders Kachin State, before launching offensives against PDFs operating there.
A woman living in Myo Thit Gyi ward of Myitkyina expressed concern about widespread fighting in Kachin State after the internet shutdown and a warning by SAC’s Northern Military Command. “News has spread that the schools will be closed too. I do not know whether KIO/KIA will launch an operation to seize towns.”
A local man living in jade-rich Hpakant said that although Telenor used to be available sometimes, currently, the township is experiencing a total blackout with no phone service available.
After contacting the country’s various cell phone companies, KNG received no answers for the service suspension in Kachin State.
As in most of the world since the proliferation of affordable smartphones and high-speed connectivity, people of Burma have come to rely on the internet in recent years for information about health issues, local news, and politics that affect them. According to a study in 2021, 23.65 were connected in the country, which is over half of Burma’s 53.8m population.
A displaced woman from Namsan Yang now living in the town of Waingmaw said, “People used to share information on Facebook about when they see the Burma army on the road and they could move to a safer place if necessary” but they can’t get any information now.
According to a 2018 resolution by United Nations Human Rights Council, intentionally blocking or restricting information through channels like the internet is a kind of human rights violation.
Since June, SAC has launched a failed operation to take control of the Namsan Yang area to cut off Laiza; however, despite pouring troops into the region, KIO/KIA have pinned them down and eventually captured some of their camps, including Lailum Awng Ja, which is next to Namsan Yang.
The first two years after the military regime, resistance forces were largely on the defensive, but that started to change a few months ago. The various armies battling to overthrow SAC have begun conducting more coordinated offensives operations culminating with the 1027 Operation in the north and more recently Karenni forces have launched 1111 in eastern Burma on November 11. Last week, AA broke its informal ceasefire and seized junta outposts in Chin and Arakan states, and the town of Pauktaw in Arakan State for one day. Since late October, nine towns and over 150 SAC bases have been captured by the resistance in Shan, Kachin, Karenni, Chin, and Arakan States and Mandalay, Sagaing, and Magwe Regions.