The internet shutdown in Myanmar’s conflict-ridden northwest, described by rights groups as the world’s longest, entered a second year on Sunday with locals and campaigners appealing for an end to the blackout as coronavirus fears grip the region.
The Myanmar military has been embroiled in a bloody civil war since January last year against the Arakan Army (AA), an insurgent group fighting for more autonomy for ethnic Rakhine Buddhists.
The government shut down mobile data in several townships across Rakhine state and neighbouring Chin state on June 21 last year, causing panic among residents desperate for information about the unrest.
Human Rights Watch (HRW) had called on Friday for an immediate end to “the world’s longest government-enforced internet shutdown”.
HRW’s Linda Lakhdhir said “civilians must get the information needed to stay safe” during a global pandemic.
The country has so far recorded 287 coronavirus cases including six deaths, but experts fear the low numbers are due to a lack of testing.