Internet Reopen in Rakhine and Chin States Today but Very Weak Connection and Local People Welcome Cautiously

Kyaw Lunn and Myat Hein Tun, two Rakhine student leaders, are sentenced for one month in jail on July 23 in protesting to reopen internet in Rakhine and Chin State in May 2020. 
AN. Sittway. August 2, 2020.

Internet has reopened in Rakhine and Chin States since last night but weak connection. Local people welcome it cautiously. 

Local residents report this morning they can connect to internet but very weak. They say they cannot read news and watch YouTube. 

Myanmar government has shut down mobile internet service since June 20 last year. It reopened in May 2020 but blocked it again three months later.

The internet service is reinstated in Buthedaung, Kyauktaw, Minbya, Mrauk U, Maybon, Rathedaung, Ponnaygun, and Paletwa township in Chin State since last night. 

International community, United Nations, and local and international human rights organizations pressurized Myanmar government to open the world longest internet shutdown in Myanmar. 

“Yes, the internet is opening now but cannot read news on webpages and YouTube, said lawmaker U U Twan Won from Kyauktaw township. 

A school teacher in Mrauk U said, “I send an email to my friend in the United States, but very slowly sending.” 

Ko Soe Win, working in Malaysia, said, “I talk to my mother this morning. I am very concerned my brother and sister are safe since Myanmar soldiers arrested and charged four women in our village with terrorist laws. My siblings are OK at least for now.” 

Myanmar soldiers arrested and charged 4 village women ages ranging from 60s to 30s last week with terrorist laws in Yay Nan Twan village in Kyaukphyu township and accused they were collecting cash and foods for Arakan Army. Ko Soe Win’s parents and siblings are the residents of Yay Nan Twan village. 

Local analysts cautiously welcome lifting internet restriction. 
“Maybe this, government temporarily reopen the mobile internet service because of international pressure, and election campaigns are kicking off by the ruling party and some national parties in Rakhine State. But as long as the war is continuing between Myanmar army and Arakan Army, the government can shut down the internet at any time,” said a local analyst who wants to keep his name confident. 
He said, “In Rakhine and Paletwa in Chin State, Myanmar military makes policy. The top brasses figure every aspect on military point of view. First, they thought unilateral ceasefire declaration except Rakhine state and Paletwa township might help them win the war. Later, they urged government to let them use jet fighters and helicopters. Later, they quested government to shut down the internet. In the end, they pushed government to declare AA as terrorist organization. What next? They are pressuring the government to give the military more power to manage the state with Martial Law. Of course, the internet will shut down again if the military is given the power. In fact, none of these forces are working but negotiation.”

Local politicians agree the analyst concern. The national election in northern parts of Rakhine and Paletwa township is uncertain even though NLD and local Rakhine parties declare they will participate in it. 

“What I hear is the Union Election Commission told the media they are waiting security recommendation from the military and home ministry whether they will guarantee the security during the election in Rakhine State,” said a leader from Arakan National Party, who does not want to publish his name. 

He said he welcomes the internet reopen so that they can effectively reach the voters in the conflict zone.

Arakan CSOs are welcoming lifting the internet restriction and said, “It is good and at least we can limitedly educate the internally displaced populations for Covid-19 prevention methods. 

“My brother asked me to reload a phone bill because he said he will get the exam result on August 9. I think he can read it on online,” said Ma Mu living in an off road and rural village in Ponnaygun township, and her brother took a collage entrance exam in May. 

Indeed, resumption of internet can at least help millions of local residents to report human rights abuses timely and resume online businesses and share information internally. 


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