Myanmar military snaps internet connection to hide massive genocide

A child plays near a communications tower in Sittwe Rakhine

A child plays near a communications tower in Sittwe Rakhine

The Arakan Army is a rebel group that recruits from the mainly Buddhist ethnic Rakhine population and is fighting for greater autonomy for the state.

An internet blackout in parts of Myanmar could be cover for "gross human rights violations" in an area where a brutal army crackdown has already forced hundreds of thousands of Rohingya to flee, a United Nations rights investigator said.

Yanghee Lee issued a statement Monday to the U.N. Human Rights Council that mobile Internet service has been blacked out in nine townships across Rakhine and neighboring Chin states, where the military has been battling fighters with the rebel Arakan Army since late previous year.

Civilians as well as government departments and civil societies are facing difficulties after Myanmar's Ministry of Information cut off internet connection in Paletwa Township in Chin State and another 8 Townships in the northern part of Rakhine State, where armed clashes between AA and Tatmadaw have been taking place.

"I fear for all civilians there, cut off and without the necessary means to communicate with people inside and outside the area".

Thousands of troops have been deployed to the western region, which has seen more than 35,000 people fleeing their homes to escape heavy artillery fire in the violence that has spilt over into Chin state.

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Lee reported that nine townships had been blacked out, with no media access and serious restrictions on humanitarian organisations.

On June 20, 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.

The authorities defended the decision citing "disturbances of the peace" and said that the internet services were being used to coordinate illegal activities in that area, where clashes between the country's military and the Arakan Army, a Rakhine-based insurgent group, have been frequent since 2018.

Lee's statement said the conflict between the Arakan Army and the military has been going on since late a year ago and has displaced more than 35,000 civilians, affecting people in Rakhine and in neighbouring Chin state.

The military was accused of committing atrocities against the stateless ethnic minority, including arson, rape and mass killings. The military denies these allegations.

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