FROM THE DVB NEWSROOM
On Nov. 25, regime media reported that people using satellite internet services, provided by companies like Starlink, could be prosecuted under Myanmar’s Telecommunications Law.
“When the military shut down the internet in Karenni State, the people faced many difficulties. Some people fled to big cities like Yangon and Taunggyi. But those who were left here in Karenni State wanted to communicate with their families,” said Lwan, the spokesperson at the Karenni Hope organization.
Phone and internet services were shut down by the military in Loikaw, Demoso, Hpruso, Mese and Loilen Lay townships of Karenni State on Nov. 11. In response to this, the Karenni Hope organization, which assists Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) opened “Starlink Cafe” with access to satellite internet on Nov. 22.
“We purchased the device just to use for our organization. But we decided to open this cafe for the public to access the internet and to cover the budget for the Starlink devices,” added Lwan.
The Starlink Cafe is only open for a few hours per day due to the lack of electricity and reliance on a generator. All customers must pay 1,000 kyat (29 cents USD) per visit to cover the cost of the monthly fees for the Starlink terminal, and for fuel to keep the generator running.
“I came to this cafe to use the internet after I heard that Starlink cafe is open here. It is very convenient for me and I can contact my family members thanks to this,” said Elizabeth, an IDP living in Karenni State.
Most of the Starlink Cafe customers are either IDPs or members of Karenni resistance forces wanting to communicate with loved ones living in other parts of Myanmar. Satellite internet allows for people in Myanmar to circumvent the telecommunications shutdown, which is a standard operating procedure for the military when launching an offensive against resistance forces.
It also allows for local organizations assisting IDPs and refugees, fleeing from the military attacks, to receive funds and donations from around the world.
“I faced difficulty using the internet before this cafe opened. Now, I can contact my husband who is working in Thailand to support me financially. That’s why I came here to use the internet,” said Moe, the wife of a Myanmar migrant worker in Thailand.