The blackout, enforced by authorities since June this year and now entering its 100th day, remains in place in four townships - Ponnagyun, Kyauktaw, Mrauk-U, and Minbya.
The measure appears to be a clear exercise in limiting the flow of information about the situation facing minorities like the ethnic Rakhine and Rohingya who remain in Myanmar. The United Nations has said it fears that human rights violations are being committed against ethnic minorities in Rakhine State under the cover of darkness.
Save the Children Australia Director of Policy and International Programs Mat Tinkler said the blackout made it difficult to ascertain the living conditions and treatment of these minorities.
“We remain deeply concerned about the circumstances of ethnic minorities who remain in Myanmar and who continue to be at serious risk of violence and abuse,” Mr Tinkler said.
“The blackout is in contravention of fundamental human rights. It takes away people’s ability to communicate with the outside world, while making it even more difficult to hold the perpetrators of some almost unimaginable human rights violations to account.
“It also prevents people’s ability to go about their daily lives – further compounding the difficulties they already face. Denying people access to the internet affects their ability to conduct business and financial transactions as well as impacting access to critical health and emergency services.”
The information blackout goes beyond the internet too. Humanitarian access to key communities including the Rohingya has been restricted while authorities have also denied independent human rights observers and journalists access to some of the worst-affected areas.
As we reach the 100th day of this blackout Save the Children calls on the international community, including Australia, to continue to use its influence through bilateral channels and international forums. These include ASEAN, the United Nations Human Rights Council and the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA), to help ensure accountability, to address the root causes of the crisis and to improve conditions in Rakhine State by fully implementing the recommendations of the Rakhine Advisory Commission, in the spirit with which they were intended.
While Save the Children welcomes comments by Australia’s Foreign Minister at the UNGA this week, emphasising the Government’s focus on a sustainable solution to the Rohingya crisis, we would highlight the need for a continued and concerted international push to alleviate the plight of all ethnic minorities in Myanmar.
“Sadly, the renewed conflict in Rakhine shows that yet again it is children who pay the highest price. They deserve the care and protection to survive, learn and thrive, and a commitment from the Government of Myanmar and the international community that they will be protected and guaranteed the justice they deserve,” Mr Tinkler said.
Save the Children has been working in Rakhine state since 2010, delivering humanitarian and development 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.
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For media inquiries contact Licardo Prince on 0401 777 917.