An unexpected blackout of mobile data hit Myanmar’s Rakhine state and has entered the third day, leaving villagers unable to access the internet in areas which the army was accused of abusing during its battle with ethnic rebels.
On Friday, the country’s Ministry of Transport and Communications (MoTC) urged all telecom operators to suspend the use of internet data in around nine townships across the restive area of Rakhine and its neighboring Chin State.
Telenor Myanmar said in a statement, “As a basis for its request, the MoTC has referenced disturbances of the peace an internet services to coordinate illegal activities.”
The order was made under the Telecommunications Law which hut all telecom operators for a period of time which was not specified.
The army is currently fighting ethnic Rakhine rebels who are searching for greater autonomy within their own region. The Rakhine area is home to many Buddhists who are also fighting on their homeland’s border with the northern Chin state.
The Rakhine have accused the Myanmar army for committing several abuses against them.
Many civilians of the region were killed in shellings and crossfires, even whilst they were seeking refuge in monasteries.
“We have no internet at all. We use the internet to share information through (messaging app) viber,” said Kyaw Soe Moe, head of Inn Din village.
The internet blackout has also impacted local authorities in the region.
“We have to use the phone, SMS and fax to report back to our headquarters. Fighting is still ongoing here every day,” said a police officer.