Last June, the government of Myanmar, headed by the State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi, cut off the internet access to the nine districts of the region due to concerns that it was used to ignite the heart of the clashes between the Myanmar military and insurgents.
A township of its service restored in May, but the other eight, with a total population of almost 800 000 people, to stay in an information blackout.
Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International say the extended shutdown of the reactor is put lives in danger, not only because it is preventing people from reporting violations of human rights, but because he has cut public health campaigns on the coronavirus pandemic.
“With the armed conflict between the Myanmar military and the Arakan Army in Rakhine State, in the middle of a pandemic, it is essential for civilians to obtain the necessary information to stay safe,” Linda Lakhdhir, Asia, legal advisor at Human Rights Watch said in a statement.
A handful of cases have been found in the Maungdaw and Buthidaung Townships in northern Rakhine state, wheremore than 100 000 Rohingya Muslims live in overcrowded camps. Many people have fled, “clean up operations” launched by the army against the Rohingya insurgents in 2018. The UNITED nations has called on the Myanmar military to face an international tribunal on charges of genocide for the atrocities of Rohingya Muslims. Rakhine Buddhists homeless by the recent fighting are also living in camps in the region.
As the coronavirus pandemic spread around the world earlier this year, Suu Kyi, the government has launched a “No one Left Behind” information campaign on prevention of diseases, such as the social distance requirements.
But the deputies Htoot May, which represents the Arakan National League for Democracy to the upper House of the Myanmar Union Parliament, said on Sunday that a lot of people who live in the north of Rakhine state and the neighbouring countries of the Chin state are not receiving the public health notice issued on Facebook, the messaging, applications and web sites of the government.
“When I ask people in my riding, that they are aware of Covid-19, I need to explain the global pandemic since the beginning,” said Htoot May. “I have to explain what is the social distance is and how to practice good hand hygiene. ”
“I can not travel widely because of Covid-19, of course, if there is a limit to the number of people that I can warn them,” the MP continued.
“They are not afraid of Covid-19 because they do not know, at this stage, they are much more concerned by the fighting. ”
CNN has approached the Myanmar Office Of The Councillor of State, spokesman Zaw Htay for the comment.
In the course of clashes
The fighting broke out at the end of 2018 between the Myanmar military, known as the Tatmadaw, and well-equipped of the Arakan Army, which wants more autonomy for the Rakhine Buddhists, the majority of the population in Rakhine state.
While the war rages, the internet, the shutdown has resulted in the death of civilians by depriving people of real-time information, according to an open letter released by the coalition of the state of Rakhine political and community groups, and social media on Sunday.
Clashes have increased regardless of the internet blackout, 151 civilians have been killed and 344 injured in exchanges of fire between January and May, according to the letter.
“This is not a conflict that can be won by the other side of the battlefield,” said independent Myanmar analyst Richard Horsey in a statement to The International Crisis Group. “It is essentially a political problem where the Rakhine people want more autonomy and more say in their future. (Myanmar) needs to develop a policy response and that is currently the default. ”
The alternative is a permanent war, Horsey said, and both the Arakan Army and the Myanmar military have been accused of atrocities. Khine Kyaw Moe, an MP representing the Rakhine National Party, said that, even without an internet connection, these atrocities are reported and undocumented migrants.
“The two armies are in the process of committing violations of human rights, and, without the internet, people are cut off from journalists and local and international Ngos that they could report these things,” Khine Kyaw Moe said.
Sunday, the open letter, addressed to Suu Kyi, and signed by the 79 Rakhine groups of stakeholders, said he is looking for this political solution, which begins with the government of the reconnection to the internet.
“The freedom of expression and access to information is the foundation of democracy. At this age, the access to the internet, is the democratic standard. Equal loan applications information on the economy, education, health, and society, ” the letter reads.
Like many other countries, Myanmar has introduced a curfew, ban gatherings and a quarantine period for foreign arrivals in an attempt to control the spread of the coronavirus.
The government has also introduced criminal penalties for individuals who do not comply with the rules, including prison sentences for those who have made a quarantine order. At least 500 people, including children, have been sentenced to prison sentences as long as a year.
The response of the country appears to have halted the spread of the virus, but has not been without its detractors.
“Throw in hundreds behind the bars of crowding, the unsanitary conditions of the prisons of defeats the purpose of containing the spread of the Covid-19,” said Phil Robertson, Human Rights Watch, in the declaration of May.
Suu Kyi, the approach of the pandemic could play against it as the country prepares to vote in an election later this year.
MP Htoot May say that the fighting in the state of Rakhine and the subsequent communications off could also erode the voter support for Suu Kyi and her party, the National League for Democracy.
“In 2015, I thought Suu Kyi and I had the pleasure of working with her,” said the MP Htoot May. “I would have thought that Aung San Suu Kyi has been helping people in remote areas to access the internet, not to cut him. ”
“Human rights is not something that Aung San Suu Kyi is enough to talk about. She needs the practice. ”
On the other hand, aung san Suu Kyi on the virus could not affect the outcome of the election — that because of the internet shutdown, a large number of people in the extreme west of the country, might not ever know what happened.