Internet Cafes Start To Boom In Chin State Amid Fears For Users
Communication seems to get better and more accessible to the Chin people as a number of Internet Cafes opened to the public, yet with limited access, has increased recently in Chin State, sources revealed.
At least 3 Internet Cafes have been opened last month by private owners, making a total of 4 in Hakha, the capital of Chin State, Burma. There is at least one Internet Cafe, according to unconfirmed sources, each in Falam, Than Tlang and Tiddim towns, three of the biggest in Chin State.
“The Internet is mostly used for communicating with the Chin people living in other countries. We are quite busy these days with customers who have got families and relatives abroad. Internet facilities such as chatting and email are the most common ones,” a local Internet Cafe assistant told Chinland Guardian.
Depending upon the facilities and quality of computer accessories provided, the Internet users have to pay the fees ranging from 1,000 to 1,500 Kyats per hour, which is said to be much cheaper than using the telephone.
A local Internet user from Than Tlang town told Chinland Guardian: “We come to use Internet because it is much better than telephone. We can chat, talk and use emails. The problem is that we don’t have electricity regularly. Luckily these days, the electricity is running every day as one of the government officials is visiting the town.”
Sudden growth of Internet cafes in Chin State sparks fears for the users who can be tapped or eavesdropped at any times by the military authority. In Burma, anyone can be arrested without a warrant for being involved in any form in the promotion of human rights and democracy.
Some well-known media websites such as BBC and VOA are banned from public use but these blocked websites can be accessed by using a different proxy server. The users, well aware of the possible consequences, are being cautious and careful when they are online and using the Internet, a local Internet assistant said.
Military-monitored Internet has been used in government offices in Chin State since the early 2000s. A public Internet with very limited access was first available in Hakha in 2005. Introducing a more advanced communications technology called ADSL (Asymmetric Digital Subscriber Line) brought about the rise of Internet cafes in Chin State this year.
Chin State has been isolated and cut off communications from the outside world for decades. Till today, no tourists have been since then allowed to travel into the mountainous state. Little is thus exposed and known about the sufferings of the Chin people who like other ethnic groups in Burma have been facing the callous brutalities of Burma’s military regime. This has led to a continuing massive exodus of the Chin people from their homeland towards other countries in search of safety and refuge.
Van Biak Thang
16 August, 2008