Locals in southern Chin State’s Paletwa Township say that they still are unable to get online, despite a news leak that internet service had been restored to the area after being blocked by the government for more than one year.
The government has cut off mobile internet services to eight townships in Rakhine State, in addition to Paletwa Township in Chin State, since June 21, 2019, citing security concerns as the military engages in intensifying offensives against the Arakan Army.
Locals believed internet access would be restored on August 1.
“Currently, we cannot use the internet here,” Aik Tun Min, a Paletwa local, told Khonumthung News. “Some people got a message from their internet service provider about internet service opening up again, but some people have not gotten that message. That message did not come to my phone.”
He added that those who did receive the text message from their service provider are still unable to get online.
“We called and asked people in Kyauktaw about it,” Aik Tun Min said, referring to a Rakhine State township also subjected to the internet blockade. “They said that they could not use the internet in Kyauktaw, either. We cannot use either Messenger or Viber, so I am sure there is no internet service in our area.”
A woman who lives in Paletwa told Khonumthung News that people in the area use sim cards from the operator MPT, but that their access is dependent upon being able to connect to a 4G network. The government has reportedly just allowed access to a 2G network.
“They only opened a 2G network, so we cannot use Facebook, Messenger or Viber [applications]. We cannot read online news,” she said on the condition of anonymity, adding, “There is no difference from when there was a closure of internet services.”
Paletwa residents say they are suffering economically, socially, and with their education due to the prolonged lack of internet access. They have also been unable to get updated health information online throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.
The internet blockade in Rakhine and Chin states has been described by organizations such as Human Rights Watch as “the world’s longest internet shutdown.” Domestic and international human rights organizations, as well as international governments, have called on the Burmese government to restore internet access in the region.