We, civil society organisations and individuals, condemn the continued shut down of all internet access in part of Rakhine State, which entered six months today and is now one of the longest shutdowns in the world.
All access to the internet was shut down in nine townships in conflict-ridden Rakhine and Chin States on 21 June 2019. Internet access remains shut down in four townships of Rakhine State – Mrauk-U, Kyauktaw, Minbya, Ponnagyun – six months later, on 21 December 2019.
Despite global condemnation, including from the UN itself, the government has refused to restore internet access.
The government has justified the shutdown on the basis of national security. However, there has been no evidence that the disproportionate decision has had any positive effect on reducing the conflict, which remains pervasive.
Stakeholders have highlighted a range of significant detrimental economic, social, developmental, political, and civil concerns.
Rakhine State is already one of the least developed regions of Myanmar. The shutdown will undoubtedly make this situation and the conflict itself worse.
We, therefore, call on the government to:
- Immediately lift all restrictions on internet access and to restore telecommunication unconditionally to full capacity in the remaining four townships of Rakhine State
- Review Articles 77 and 78 and other Articles of the 2013 Telecommunication Law and amend them to be in line with human rights standards
- Refrain from restricting internet access in future, either in these currently affected areas or elsewhere in Myanmar, including in other conflict areas, and during periods of elections.
- Action Committee for Democracy Development
- Arakan CSO Network
- Association of Human Rights Defenders & Promoters – HRDP
- Athan – Freedom of Expression Activist Organization
- Free Expression Myanmar (FEM)
- Kachin National Youth Network
- Kachin State Youth Assembly
- Karenni Human Rights Group
- Mandalay Federalism Institute
- Metta Campaign
- Myan ICT for Development Organization (MIDO)
- Progressive Voice
- Rakhine Youth New Generation Network ရခိုင်လူငယ်မျိုးဆက်သစ်-ကွန်ရက်
- Smile Myanmar
- Synergy – Social Harmony Organization
- The Seagull: Human Rights, Peace & Development
- Union of Karenni State Youth – UKSY
- Daw Ei Myat Noe Khin (Digital Rights Activist)
- Daw Wai Phyo Myint (Digital Rights Advocate)
- The UN Human Rights Council has repeatedly adopted resolutions, most recently in 2018, identifying uninterrupted internet access as a fundamental enabler for the enjoyment of human rights.
- On 20 June the Ministry of Transport and Communications (MoTC) issued a directive toward all mobile phone operators – MPT, Mytel, Telenor and Ooredoo – to temporarily suspend mobile internet service in the conflict ridden townships of Rakhine and Chin States, effective at 10:00 PM (local time) on 21st June.
According to a media interview given by MoTC’s Permanent Secretary U Soe Thein, the directive was issued on the basis of the Article 77 of the 2013 Telecommunication Law, with the approval of the Union Government and he explained that the ban was intended “to maintain the stability and law and order in these areas”.