After more than a 10 week long ban, internet services in five townships of Myanmar’s Rakhine and Chin States were restored on August 31, by the country’s Ministry of Transportation and Communications, according to a Telenor statement.  The ban continues to prevail in four other townships of Rakhine.  “Restoration of peace and stability” in these five townships was given as reason for lifting the internet blackout by the ministry, according to Telenor. Of these five townships, four are located in Rakhine (Buthidaung, Maungdaw, Rathedaung and Myebon) and one in Chin, according to Reuters.

The internet ban has been in place since June 21

Myanmar’s Ministry of Transportation and Communications had, on June 21, directed all telecom operators in the country to “temporarily” shut down internet services in nine towns in the states of Rakhine and Chin. It had ordered the shutdown citing “disturbances of peace” and potential use of the internet to coordinate illegal activities.

In 2017, about 730,000 Rohingya Muslims fled from Rakhine to Bangladesh, following a military crackdown in response to the militant attack. It is important to note that the Myanmar government can intercept, suspend, or obtain any information that threatens the national security and prevalence of law in the country, according to the country’s telecom laws. The UN had earlier said that Facebook was used to spread hatred against the Rohingya community by top officials in the military, and criticised it for being “slow and ineffective”.

Censorship in Indonesia, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh

Myanmar’s fellow South Asian countries including Indonesia, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh have witnessed censorship on communication tools by the state.

  • In Indonesia, social media usage was partially banned in May amid violent post-election riots in Jakarta.
  • In Sri Lanka, the government imposed bans on social media usage on three different occasions, in the aftermath of the Easter Sunday bombings in April.
  • Bangladesh’s telecom regulator ordered telecom operators in the country to to suspend 3G, 4G services in December last year during the general elections to “prevent rumours and propaganda surrounding the vote”.