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Myanmar’s Young Rebels Find the Bright Sides to an Internet Blackout

WorldMyanmar’s Young Rebels Find the Bright Sides to an Internet Blackout

In the night, the mountain air not quite chill enough to still the insects, young people gathered around a glow. The light attracting them was not a phone screen, that electric lure for people almost everywhere, but a bonfire.

From around the blaze, music radiated. Fingers strummed a guitar. Voices layered lyrics about love, democracy and, most of all, revolution. Moths courted the flame, sparking when they veered too close, then swooning to their deaths.

For months now, these hills of Karenni State in eastern Myanmar have been severed from modern communications. The military junta that seized power in a coup three years ago, plunging the country into civil war, has cut off the populations most opposed to its brutal rule. In these resistance strongholds, where people from around the nation have congregated, there is almost no internet, cell service or even electricity.

The return to a pre-modern age carries awful consequences for people’s lives. When a baby’s fever spikes, there is no way to call a doctor. Rebel fighters, who have overrun dozens of Myanmar military bases in recent offensives, cannot contact battle commanders from frontline outposts. Students cannot attend online classes, which in some places in Myanmar are the only educational option.

News — who survived an airstrike, whose village was burned, whose daughter has fled the country for work abroad — travels at a pedestrian’s pace or, if expensive fuel can be found, by motorcycles bumping along jungle paths.

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