World’s Longest Internet Shutdown in Myanmar enters 2nd year

On 21st June 2019, the mobile internet services were shut down by the Myanmar Government in eight townships of the conflict-hit Rakhine State and in one township in Chin State. Between September 2019 to February 2020 the restrictions were lifted in 5 states but were again reinstated. In Maungdaw township of Rakhine State, the restrictions were lifted on 2nd May 2020. The internet services for the remaining townships will remain shut down till the 1st of August 2020, this was announced by the Ministry of Transportation and Communication of the Myanmar Government.

Background

Since January 2019, the Myanmar Government has been engaged in battle with the Arakan Army (Rakhine Armed Group). This insurgent group is fighting for the independence of ethnic Rakhine Buddhists.

Rising Criticism for the Myanmar Government

As lack of information would result in an underreported shortage of essential services from food, water to medical aid, etc. At a time of a global pandemic, suspension of internet services would have also made it difficult for the people living in these townships to get proper information about the safety standard protocols related to COVID-19.

The move of the Myanmar Government has continued to draw criticism from both the domestic as well as International Human Rights Organizations. As per Myanmar’s Telecommunication law’s Article 77, the Government can suspend the service during an emergency situation. Various Human Rights Organizations now call for the amendment of the Article as it is not in line with the international standards for freedom of expression.

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