A municipality whose service was restored in May, but eight others, with a total population of about 800,000, remain in an information blockade.
Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International say the extended closure is endangering lives, not only because it prevents people from reporting possible human rights violations – but also because it has cut them off from public health campaigns over the coronation pandemic.
A handful of cases have been reported in the municipalities of Maungdaw and Buthidaung in the northern state of Rakhine, where more than 100,000 Rohingya Muslims live in makeshift camps. Many left the “clearing operations” launched by the military against the Rohingya guerrillas in 2018. The UN has asked the Myanmar army to appeal to an international tribunal on charges of genocide for the atrocities committed by Rohingya Muslims. Rakhine Buddhists who have been left homeless by recent fighting are also living in camps in the area.
As the coronavirus pandemic spread around the world earlier this year, the Suu Kyi government launched an “No Person Left Behind” information campaign on the prevention of diseases such as social distance.
However, lawmaker Htoot May, who represents the National Union for Democracy in Arakan in the upper house of Myanmar’s parliament, said on Sunday that many people living in the northern state of Rakin and in the neighboring state of Chad did not receive public announcements. Facebook, health messaging apps and government websites.
“When I ask the people of my constituency if they know Covid-19, I have to explain to them the global pandemic from the beginning,” Htoot May said. “I have to explain to them what social distance is and how to practice proper hand hygiene.”
“I can’t travel widely because of the Covid-19, obviously, so there are so many people I can warn,” he said.
“They are not afraid of Covid-19 because they do not know it, at this stage they are much more worried about the games.”
CNN asked Myanmar State Bureau of Migration spokesman Zao Hai for comment.
At the end of 2018, fighting broke out between the Myanmar army, known as Tatmadaw, and the well-equipped Arakan army, which wants more autonomy for the Rakhine Buddhists, the majority of the population in the state of Rakhine.
Clashes have escalated since the Internet shut down, with 151 people killed and 344 injured in the January-May conflict, according to the letter.
“This is not a conflict that can be won by both sides on the battlefield,” Myanmar independent analyst Richard Horsey told the International Crisis Group. “It’s basically a political problem where the Rachin people want more autonomy and more about their future. (Myanmar) needs to develop a political response and that’s missing today.”
The alternative is the ongoing war, Horsey says, and both Arakan’s army and Myanmar’s military have been blamed for the atrocities. Khine Kyaw Moe, a lawmaker representing the Rakhine National Party, says that without an internet connection, these atrocities are not reported and have not been substantiated.
“Both armies are violating human rights, and without the Internet, people are being cut off from journalists and local and international NGOs that may be reporting these things,” said Khine Kyaw Moe.
Sunday’s open letter to Suu Kyi, signed by Rakhine’s 79 interest groups, says it is seeking a political solution that will begin with the government’s reunification with the Internet.
“Freedom of speech and access to information is the foundation of democracy. At this time, Internet access is the democratic model. Equality requires ready-made information on economics, education, health and society,” he said. The letter.
Like many other nations, Myanmar has introduced a travel ban, large-scale bans and a quarantine period for foreign arrivals in an effort to control the spread of corona.
The government also introduced penalties for those who did not comply with the rules, including prison sentences for those who violated quarantine orders. At least 500 people, including children, have been sentenced to one year in prison.
The country’s response appears to have been to spread the virus, but it was not without its critics.
Suu Kyi’s approach to the pandemic could work against her as the country prepares to vote in elections later this year.
MP Htoot May said the fighting in Rakhine and the subsequent termination of communications could also erode the support of voters for the Suu Kyi and her party, the National League for Democracy.
“In 2015, I believed in Suu Kyi and I was happy to work with her,” said MP Htoot May. “I think Aung San Suu Kyi was going to help people in remote areas get access to the Internet, not cut them off.”
“Human rights are not something Aung San Suu Kyi can talk about. He has to practice them.”
On the other hand, Suu Kyi’s record on the virus could not affect its election results – as due to the end of the internet, a large number of people in the far west may never know what happened.