Elon Musk in February. / AFP
Activists in Myanmar have asked SpaceX and Tesla founder Elon Musk to provide uncensored internet across the country amid the junta’s shutdowns in anti-regime strongholds.
Musk’s satellite internet firm, Starlink, began operating in Iran this week, amid protests that have caused more than 40 deaths, and it provides services in Ukraine after communications were disrupted by Russia’s invasion.
According to Access Now, at least 54 of Myanmar’s 330 townships have internet blackouts, while the junta blocks access to websites and social media platforms, including Facebook, a primary channel for communication. In resistance strongholds, the junta has also cut mobile phone communications.
The civilian National Unity Government’s communications minister U Htin Lin Aung asked Musk to offer Starlink to Myanmar after the service was provided in Ukraine and Iran.
Justice for Myanmar stated this week that the junta is taking control of all mobile networks, directly and through proxies, to build a digital dictatorship. Censorship, internet shutdowns and surveillance are routine, the activist group said.
“Stand with the people of Myanmar. Activate #Starlink,” it said.
Access has been cut in Sagaing and Magwe regions and Chin State, where resistance forces are strong. The blackout impedes the release of information about the conflict.
Messages on Thursday on Facebook and Twitter said Myanmar urgently needed Musk’s help.
One user said the internet shutdown was intended to stop the international community from seeing evidence of junta atrocities.
Myanmar needs Starlink to record crimes and to hold the junta to account, he wrote. “Help us and save lives,” he added.
Myanmar is unified in opposing the junta which seized power in February last year.
At least 2,324 people, including nearly 300 children, have been killed by regime troops and more than 15,600 people have been detained.