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Yanghee Lee issued a statement Monday to the U.N. Human Rights Council that mobile Internet service has been blacked out in nine townships across Rakhine and neighboring Chin states, where the military has been battling fighters with the rebel Arakan Army since late past year.

The government said the ban, which went into effect late Thursday, was to maintain stability and law and order in these areas, however, local rights groups voiced concern on the block of information flow online.

The UN expert said that blackout coincides with reports of a “clearance operation” by the army, “which, we all know by now, can be a cover for committing gross human rights violations against the civilian population”.

“I fear for all civilians there”, she said in the statement.

“The directive, which makes references to theΒ Myanmar’s Telecommunication Law, does not specify when the shutdown will end”.

Few people in banned township own personal computers so the mobile internet blackout has effectively shut most people off from the outside world.

Lee, an independent expert who reports to the U.N. Human Rights Council on human rights in Burma, said nine townships had been blacked out, with no media access and serious restrictions on humanitarian organizations. Some 35,000 civilians have been displaced by the conflict, which has also spilled into neighboring Chin state.

In the same area, over 800,000 members of the Rohingya minority had to fles to Bangladesh following a massive operation by the Burmese army in 2017, which the United Nations has described as a “textbook example” of ethnic cleansing and “intentional genocide”.

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