Myanmar's internet blackout hides killings, displacement: UN

In the 10 days since the Myanmar government imposed a new internet shutdown in violence-wracked Rakhine state, civilians in western Myanmar have been killed, injured and displaced, UN human rights observers reported on Tuesday.

Five townships in or near Rakhine, where the military is accused of committing genocide against the Rohingya minority, had mobile phone data cut off on February 3.

A day later, the UN observers started receiving credible reports of daily fighting involving helicopters and navy ships, they said in a statement from Geneva.

The report indicates that up to 1,100 people have been displaced in the past 10 days, including 600 from a village in Kyauktaw township.

Since the start of the blackout, at least seven civilians have been killed and up to 50 injured. The latter figure includes 21 children whose elementary school came under fire in Buthidaung township on Friday.

"We are gravely concerned that children are being killed and injured, and that reports suggest weapons are being used indiscriminately," said the UN rights monitors for Myanmar, internal displacement, freedom of speech and minorities in their joint statement.

"The blanket suspension of mobile internet cannot be justified and must end immediately," it said, demanding immediate access for media, aid groups and human rights monitors.

More than 730,000 Rohingya fled Rakhine to Bangladesh in 2017 amid reports of mass rape, murder and arson that lawyers in ongoing international lawsuits argue amounted to genocide.

Since 2017, Rakhine has been plunged into a separate crisis as Arakan Army insurgents fight for greater autonomy.

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