Students arrested after protesting internet blackout

Police arrested students last Sunday during a protest against the ongoing internet blackout in conflict-riddled parts of Rakhine and Chin State.

The students are facing charges of unlawful association after police broke up the Yangon protest against the state-imposed internet blackout in parts of Rakhine State. Speaking to the Bangkok Post, the Arakan Student Union claimed that at least nine of its members are being charged under the Peaceful Assembly Law. The students face jail time of up to six months, should they be found guilty.

The ongoing internet blackout is one of the most polarizing aspects of the conflict along Myanmar’s western border. The blackout was imposed in nine townships last June. The ban was lifted in five of the townships, but it was reinstated earlier this month. The government claims the ban is meant to hamper the intelligence efforts of Arakan Army rebels. However, local media claim it only serves to keep civilian populations in conflict zones in the dark about the fighting that surrounds them. Relief and aid organizations, too, have condemned the ban, claiming it has made it more difficult to assist the more than 100,000 civilians displaced in the fighting.

The United Nations seems to agree. Last week, UN rights experts condemned the internet blackout, claiming fighting has spiked in areas subjected to ban. The blackout, they argued, directly endangers civilians, especially children.

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