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Iran Press TV

Myanmar cuts off internet in violence-hit states, intercom firm says

Iran Press TV

Tuesday, 04 February 2020 9:43 AM

A leading global telecoms operator says Myanmar has imposed an internet shutdown in the country's western states of Rakhine and Chin, amid renewed violence and a few months after it partially lifted that same restriction.

Myanmar's Transport and Communications Ministry ordered mobile phone internet connections cut off again in four townships in Rakhine and one in Chin for three months, citing "security requirements and public interest," Norwegian mobile operator Telenor Group said in a statement late Monday.

Internet connections had been restored in those same places in September last year after a months-long blackout amid peace talks seeking to end fighting between government forces and ethnic Buddhist rebels.

According to Telenor, four other townships remain under a blackout first imposed in June 2019.

But Tun Tun Nyi, a Myanmarese military spokesman, said the army was unaware of the blackout. "We don't know and we haven't heard about it," he told Reuters on Tuesday.

The purported re-imposition of the internet shutdown comes after two women, one pregnant, were killed and seven others injured in an alleged artillery attack on a Rohingya village in Rakhine on January 25.

Maung Kyaw Zan, a member of the national parliament for Buthidaung Township, told Reuters that Kin Taung Village had been hit by shells fired from a nearby military battalion in the middle of the night, adding "There was no fighting, they just shot artillery to a village without a battle."

The military denied shelling the village, and blamed the Arakan Army (AA), a Buddhist rebel group, for the attack, which occurred two days after the Hague-based International Court of Justice (ICJ) ordered Myanmar to protect the Rohingya minority.

"AA terrorists committed firing at Bengali villages with the use of heavy weapons and planting mines," the statement said, using a term for Rohingya villages common among Myanmarese officials to denote that the Rohingya are not citizens of Myanmar.

More than 730,000 Rohingya Muslims fled Rakhine to neighboring Bangladesh following a military-led crackdown in 2016 that the UN has said was perpetrated with "genocidal intent."

Myanmarese troops are currently engaged in fighting with Buddhist rebels in the western states of Rakhine and Chin.

Lawmakers in the areas affected by the internet shutdown said the outage could prevent aid from reaching villages caught up in the fighting.

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