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Rohingya crisis two years on: internet blackout in Myanmar shows repression continues

Save the Children Australia stages its own blackout to highlight continuing human rights violations
21 August 2019
With the two-year anniversary of the Rohingya crisis approaching, Save the Children is drawing attention to the ongoing internet blackout in parts of Myanmar.

The blackout, enforced by authorities since June this year, effectively cuts communities off from the outside world. The United Nations fears that human rights violations continue to be committed against ethnic minorities living in Rakhine and Chin states, under cover of darkness.

Aid agencies have also faced restricted access to many of the conflict-affected areas raising huge concerns about the health and wellbeing of Rohingya children and families living there. It is estimated that more than 120,000 people are still living in displacement camps within Rakhine. 

To highlight the issue, Save the Children Australia will today commence a blackout of its own, turning the profile settings of all its social and digital communication channels to black and is encouraging others to do the same.

The campaign marks the second anniversary of the most recent wave of violence against the Rohingya, which saw approximately 745,000 Rohingya – more than half of them children –flee over the border to Bangladesh, where over 1 million refugees now live in camps.  

Save the Children Australia Director of Policy and International Programs Mat Tinkler said the blackout in Myanmar was in contravention of basic human rights.

“The blackout is a blatant exercise in limiting the flow of information about the circumstances of the ethnic minorities who remain in Myanmar and who are at serious risk of abuse,” he said.

“Not only does the information blackout apply to the internet, but authorities have also denied independent human rights observers and journalists access to some of the worst-affected areas.

“At the same time, tens of thousands of Rohingya have been trapped in de facto internment camps for years. Conditions there are appalling; they were not designed to host people for the nearly seven years they’ve been living there, and access to healthcare and quality education, are severely restricted.

“Rohingya in Rakhine State are subject to severe movement constraints and other forms of discrimination. This is already one of the poorest parts of Myanmar, and the denial of aid access and worsening conflict could have devastating effects. We are particularly concerned about the situation facing children.

“These restrictions on the flow of information also make it more difficult to hold the perpetrators of some almost unimaginable human rights violations to account.”

Mr Tinkler said Save the Children’s initiative was aimed at raising awareness and to prompt meaningful action.

“Today, we hope that our symbolic blackout will serve as a simple, stark reminder of the plight facing the Rohingya and other minority groups in Myanmar, and reinforce the importance of shedding light on human rights abuses. We would encourage others to do the same to help highlight the plight of ethnic minorities in Myanmar.”

“We are calling on the international community, Australia included, to use its influence through international forums such as ASEAN, the United Nations Human Rights Council and the United Nations Security Council to ensure accountability and hold the perpetrators of any violations to account.”

Save the Children has been working in Rakhine state since 2010, delivering humanitarian support in child protection, nutrition and health, food security and livelihoods, water and sanitation, and education.

Across the border in Bangladesh, Save the Children is one of the leading International NGOs in Cox’s Bazar, having reached more than 745,000 Rohingya refugees and members of the host community, including over 400,000 children, since the escalation of the crisis in August 2017. Save the Children has more than 2,000 staff and volunteers supporting our programs in child protection, access to education, health and nutrition, water and sanitation services, as well as distribution of shelter and food items. We work in all the Rohingya refugee camps in Cox’s Bazar, having been present prior to the recent influx of Rohingya refugees since August 2017.


For media enquires contact Licardo Prince on 0401 777 917.


Notes to editor


Save the Children’s response in Rakhine:

  • Save the Children has been working in Rakhine since 2010. We deploy around 250 staff from our offices in Sittwe and Pauktaw to support both humanitarian and development programs in the State. 
  • Save the Children provides essential services in all of the IDP camps in Sittwe and Pauktaw, as well as in 19 villages in Pauktaw township. 
  • Save the Children provides humanitarian support in child protection, nutrition and health, food security and livelihoods, water and sanitation, and education. 


Rohingya: Key facts

  • The Rohingya people have faced decades of systematic discrimination, statelessness and targeted violence in Rakhine State, Myanmar and have been forced to flee into Bangladesh for many years. The violence in August 2017 triggered the largest and fastest refugee influx into Bangladesh. Since then, an estimated 745,000 Rohingya—including more than 400,000 children—have fled into Cox’s Bazar.[1]
  • Over 912,485[2] Rohingya refugees live in Cox’s Bazar district of Bangladesh in 34 extremely congested camps.
  • Rohingya refugee family counting[3] data indicates 905,695 refugees live in camps and 6,790[4] refugees estimated in host communities in Ukhiya and Teknaf Upazilas (sub-district).
  • The largest single site, the Kutupalong-Balukhali Expansion Site hosts to approximately 626,500[5] Rohingya refugees.

[2] ISCG SitRep, May 2019
[3] Conducted by Rohingya Relief and Repatriation Commissioner of Bangladesh Government and UNHCR
[4] Needs and Population Monitoring (NPM) round 14

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