Monday, July 24, 2017

Internet, phone lines down in Muse after bomb blast hits cable

Local internet and phone connections were disrupted in the town of Muse yesterday after an explosion rocked the Swonlon Bridge in Muse township.

A refugee from Myanmar rests in a temporary shelter in Wanding, in China’s Yunnan province, yesterday. Photo: AFPA refugee from Myanmar rests in a temporary shelter in Wanding, in China’s Yunnan province, yesterday. Photo: AFP

U Zaw Min, Muse district administrator, said internet connections were severed entirely, while phone calls were not transmitting audio. An acquaintance was able to send The Myanmar Times an SMS message containing his Chinese phone number, which he spoke from yesterday.

“There is no more internet connection and phone lines are down after a blast at the Swonlon Bridge. It damaged the cable line underneath the bridge,” he said at about 12pm yesterday.

U Zaw Min added, “For data transferring, we have to use China lines. We hope to get it fixed soon.”

Contacted yesterday evening, U Zaw Min said the telecommunications situation had not changed.

The bridge explosion took place at about 3am yesterday, as fighting continued across multiple townships in northern Shan State 10 days after an offensive by an allied contingent of four ethnic armed groups on police and military outposts in Muse and Kutkai townships.

In addition to Muse and Kutkai, clashes between troops from the ethnic armed groups, which have called their combined forces the Northern Alliance-Burma, and government security personnel have continued in recent days in Namkham township, Shan State, and Bhamaw/Bhamo township, Kachin State.

“I have been using a China line for a while,” said Sai Myat Aung of the Shan Cultural and Literature Organisation (Muse). “Today, early morning, the connection was suddenly down.”

“The clashes don’t seem easily solvable although we hope for the best solution to calm down the situation,” he added.

The Joint Strategy Team, a group of civil society organisations in Kachin and northern Shan states, announced this week that some 2000 civilians were pinned down between the towns of Pang Sai and Mong Koe in a border area known as Hai Kaung.

“On November 27, we got information that 2000 people were trapped in the Hai Kaung area ... The number is getting higher than 2000, according to information we got today,” U Gum Sha Aung, secretary of the Joint Strategy Team, told The Myanmar Times yesterday. “They are trapped along the river [that forms the] China-Myanmar border.”

U Zaw Min confirmed that civilians were trapped in a potential conflict zone, with fighting reported in the hills surrounding the town of Mong

Refugees from Myanmar rest near a temporary shelter in Wanding, in China's southwest Yunnan province, yesterday. Thousands have fled to China as fighting continues across multiple townships in northern Shan State. Photo: AFPRefugees from Myanmar rest near a temporary shelter in Wanding, in China's southwest Yunnan province, yesterday. Thousands have fled to China as fighting continues across multiple townships in northern Shan State. Photo: AFP

As of yesterday, about 260 people remained sheltered temporarily at monasteries in Muse town, according to U Zaw Min, while people who fled across the border into China in the wake of the initial Northern Alliance offensive were returning to Muse daily.

Photos from AFP taken yesterday show displaced civilians encamped in lean-tos and sheltering under tarps at a makeshift refugee camp assembled in Wanding, China. Thousands have fled to temporary shelters along the border.

A count yesterday by the Muse district administration office put the number of fatalities due to the fighting at 17, with 57 people wounded.

The Kachin Peace Network on November 29 called for “an immediate cessation of hostilities”.

“A peaceful solution to the conflicts in Myanmar is a critical priority for the future of the country and its people. This should be based in open political dialogues that address the longstanding issues which are at the origin of this conflict,” the network said in a statement.