Internet Shutdown in Myanmar Enters Second Year

  • The Ministry of Transport and Telecommunications issued a directive to the operators of telecommunications and internet services a year ago, on June 21.
  • Overseas civil society organizations and Rakhine political parties are calling for the internet to be reopened.
  • The government said in a press conference at the Ministry of Transport and Communications last week that the government might lift the internet ban by August.

The internet blackout in Myanmar’s Rakhine State entered its second year on Sunday. The internet remained down in all eight townships in northern Rakhine and Paletwa townships in western ‎Myanmar. More than one million people in those areas have been exposed to health problems, war, and avian flu epidemics.

Rakhine State, formerly known as Arakan, is a state in Myanmar. Rakhine state is the center of the Rohingyan genocide.

The Ministry of Transport and Telecommunications issued a directive to the operators of telecommunications and internet services a year ago, on June 21, directing them to use internet access in situations that threaten peace and stability in those areas. Business, education, and security are at stake.

Overseas civil society organizations and Rakhine political parties are calling for the internet to be reopened. An open letter calling for President Win Myint, and adviser Aung San Suu Kyi, to reopen the internet was released on June 19. The letter was written by Arakanese political parties and civil society groups, including the Rakhine National Party.

Internet bans have caused more business problems. It’s also difficult to keep up to date with information. Human rights abuses are increasing. Therefore, open access to the Internet, and to the information is very important, said a spokeswoman for the Open Letter Committee, which asked for the reopening of the Internet. She also said the government would monitor the situation, saying it would reopen in August.

There are currently seven confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Maungdaw and Buthidaung, while nine confirmed patients are present in the whole of Arakan State. In addition, over 100,000 people have been displaced by the civil war, according to aid workers in Arakan State. In this situation, access to information from the internet in the areas has been reduced, and there is a serious health concern.

One cannot send or receive documents because the Internet is shut down. However, in Maungdaw, a doctor in Buthidaung Hospital says there is a problem when it comes to getting information at the right time, and having to deal with the rumors about the Kov region. The government said in a press conference at the Ministry of Transport and Communications last week that the government might lift the internet ban by August.

The Rohingya genocide is a series of ongoing persecutions by the Myanmar (formerly Burmese) government against the Muslim Rohingya people. The genocide has consisted of two phases to date: the first occurred from October 2016 to January 2017 and the second has been occurring since August 2017.

The internet is closed to the eyes. Tun Aung Thein, a lawmaker in Buthidaung Township, said that blocking the internet for the national interest is an inadequate solution. “The public should be able to tell people about the events in the area where the fighting is happening,” he said.

Aung Thar Shwe, a spokeswoman for Buthidaung Township People’s Assembly, said that the government said the internet blockade was for the benefit of the public, but it violated people’s right to information. “It’s a human rights violation,” he said.

The Internet was cut off in Map Township and Paletwa Township in Chin State. Those areas are fighting between the Arakan Army and the Tatmadaw. In September 2019, the Internet was re-launched in five townships in Rakhine State, but was cut again in February 2020.

On May 3, only one township in Maungdaw, Rakhine State, remained blocked, in seven townships in Rakhine and one in Chin state.

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Benedict Kasigara

I have been working as a freelance editor/writer since 2006. My specialist subject is film and television having worked for over 10 years from 2005 during which time I was the editor of the BFI Film and Television.

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