Without access to the internet, residents of Paletwa Township, located in southern Chin state, can’t access vital information about the election or how to protect themselves during the pandemic.
“We can’t communicate with other areas. We don’t know what’s happening with COVID-19 or the election,” a staff member at a women’s organization in Paletwa informed Khonumthung News.
The government has restricted the internet in 8 townships in Rakhine State and Paletwa Township since June 21, 2019, because of the conflict between the Burma Army and Arakan Army.
In Paletwa Township, only a 2G network is allowed.
Nang Wai, from the Relief and Rehabilitation Committee for Chin IDPs, told Khonumthung News locals can’t download job applications or keep up to date about the pandemic and the election.
Salai Tayya, the field director of Chin Human Rights Organization, says blocking the internet is a violation of freedom of speech. The government should reinstate it without delay, Salai Tayya said. “It’s an information blackout…People have lost their rights to get information.”
Calls for the internet block to end have been made by organizations across Burma and internationally.
Human Rights Watch, based in New York, said in a July statement on its website that the “government restrictions on the internet have hampered the coordination of aid, collection of accurate information, and monitoring of abuses.”
Richard Weir, crisis and conflict researcher for Human Rights Watch said: “Myanmar’s government should end its ham-fisted, punitive restrictions on civilians, including its unjustified ban on mobile internet services.”