• Tuesday, Nov 19, 2019
  • Last Update : 03:42 pm

Myanmar shuts down internet in Rakhine, UN concerned about civilians' wellbeing

  • Published at 10:50 pm June 24th, 2019
This photo taken on December 18, 2018 shows a Myanmar man logging into his Facebook account at a teashop in Yangon. Facebook has removed hundreds of additional pages and accounts in Myanmar with hidden links to the military, the platform said on December 19, as the company scrambles to respond to criticism over failures to control hate speech and misinformation AFP

UN envoy concerned about civilians' wellbeing

Myanmar government has shutdown internet connections in Rakhine, and Chin states. 

The shutdown in the conflict-ridden areas has prompted a United Nations special envoy to express deep concern about the wellbeing of the civilians, including Rohingyas.

The Myanmar government has shutdown mobile data networks in nine townships, that could have serious implications for human rights, and humanitarian monitoring in the conflict areas of Rakhine, and Chin States, according to the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.

“As there is no media access, and serious restrictions on humanitarian organizations in these areas, the entire region is in a blackout,” Yanghee Lee, the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar, said on Monday night.

“I fear for all civilians there, there is no necessary means to communicate with people inside, and outside the area,” she said.

Recent reports allege that violations of human rights, and international humanitarian law, to have been committed against the civilian population by both parties to the conflict in the last six months.

On 20 June, the Ministry of Transport and Communications issued an order to all mobile network providers under the Telecommunications Law 2013 to temporarily stop mobile internet services. 

Also Read- Myanmar orders internet shutdown in conflict-torn Rakhine state

The ministry cited disturbances to the peace, and internet services being used to coordinate illegal activities as reason for the shutdown.

There are credible reports that on 19 June, the Tatmadaw-- military of Myanmar-- conducted helicopter attacks in Minbya Township in central Rakhine. The following day, the Arakan Army fired on a navy ship in Sittwe, killing, and injuring several soldiers.

“I am told that the Tatmadaw is now conducting a ‘clearance operation,’ which we all know by now can be a cover for committing gross human rights violations against the civilian population,” the UN expert said. 

“We must not forget that these are the same security forces that have so far avoided accountability for the atrocities committed against the Rohingyas in Rakhine State, less than two years ago,” she said.

The conflict between the Arakan Army, and the Tatmadaw has been ongoing since late 2018, with civilians bearing the brunt of the violence.

Over 35,000 civilians have been displaced, and dozens of civilians, including children, have been killed, and injured in the attacks. Others, mainly ethnic Rakhine men, have died while in military custody.

“I call on the government [Myanmar] to reverse its decision to impose the mobile internet ban,” Lee said. 

“Both parties to the conflict must ensure that civilians, and civilian objects are protected at all times, and they uphold international humanitarian law. The restrictions on the media, and humanitarian organizations must be lifted immediately,” she said.