Covid-19 pandemic, Myanmar shuts down internet in Rakhine
The ongoing battle against Covid-19 in Myanmar will not be hindered by the government’s shutdown of the internet in troubled Rakhine and Chin states.
The Foreign Affairs Ministry said the internet was suspended in the two states because of persistent trouble between the Arakan Army and the military, according to The Myanmar Times.
The ministry stressed that the armed insurgent group is using the internet to coordinate attacks against government forces, and this includes detonating landmines.
As far as the fight against the Covid-19 pandemic goes, the government, in cooperation with mobile operators, has arranged to disseminate Covid-19 information through mobile SMS services and vocal announcements.
“In addition, the Social Welfare, Relief and Resettlement Ministry has already put in place an action plan for the control of a possible Covid-19 outbreak at the internally displaced person camps, which will be implemented with the assistance of relevant United Nations agencies and international organisations.
“The main reason for the internet suspension in some parts of Rakhine state is to prevent the misuse of the internet by the Arakan Army for their political and military agenda,” the ministry said in a statement.
“The Arakan Army exploited internet services and social media as tools for planned attacks, detonating landmines, mount recruitment and incite hatred among different national races which could seriously disrupt national harmony and the government’s efforts to restore peace and stability in Rakhine State.”
The townships where internet was cut off are Maungdaw, Buthidaung, Rathedaung, Ponnagyun, Mrauk-U, Kyauktaw, Minbya and Myebon in northern Rakhine and Paletwa in Chin.
The ministry said lack of internet access does not disrupt communication between the United Nations and other international organisations with the local people, as they can use mobile and SMS services, which are operational in the affected areas.
The UN in Myanmar last year called the shutdown “a significant impediment” to its work and communications in the area.
It said the internet is critical for access to information and freedom of expression, which enable other fundamental human rights.
Internet rights advocates and rights activists criticised the internet blackout in Rakhine and Chin, as it violates the people’s right to information and worsens the humanitarian crisis.