Myanmar is facing increasing pressure to immediately end a mobile internet blackout in parts of two of its states, with the United States becoming the latest to call for the lifting of the data restrictions.
Myanmar’s Ministry of Transport and Communications on June 21 ordered mobile phone operators to shut down all internet data across at least eight townships in Rakhine state and one in neighbouring Chin state.
The decision was made as the military moved against the Arakan Army, an armed group fighting for greater autonomy for the region’s ethnic Rakhine Buddhists.
Morgan Ortagus, a spokeswoman for the US State Department, said on Saturday Washington was “deeply concerned” by the data shutdown that has curbed internet-based communications for as many as one million people and called for their restoration “without delay”.
“Resumption of service would help facilitate transparency in and accountability for what the government claims are law enforcement actions aimed at preventing further outbreaks of violence in the affected areas,” Ortagus said.
In Rakhine, an estimated 30,000 civilians have been displaced by the fighting this year, in roughly the same area from where 730,000 Rohingya were driven out during a brutal crackdown by Myanmar’s security forces in 2017.