No mobile internet in Rohingya camps

Staff Correspondent | Updated at 12:04am on September 12, 2019

The government has blocked mobile internet connectivity in Rohingya camps in Tekhnaf and Ukhiya of Cox’s Bazar amid call from rights groups to ensure freedom of access to online communication.

The Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission instructed all the telcos to shut 3G and 4G services in Tekhnaf and Ukhiya on Monday, BTRC senior assistant director Md Zakir Hossain Khan confirmed New Age on Wednesday.

The telecom operators provide internet connectivity through 3G and 4G services.

The 2G service, especially meant for voice calls, also allows accessing internet but with extreme poor speed, making it quite impossible establishing connectivity by using the service.

He also informed that the operators have already implemented the regulatory instruction.

The move to snap mobile internet connectivity in the Rohingya camps came in just nine days of a government move to lower speed of network connectivity for 13 hours at night on August 1 this year.

Apart from shutting down 3G and 4G internet connectivity from 5:00pm to 6:00am every day, the telecom regulator also asked the telecom operators to snap mobile phone connectivity which were issued to the Rohingya refugees in violation of the regulatory instruction.

Aiming to ensure national security and stability, the telecom regulator took the move following an instruction from the posts and telecommunications minister Mustafa Jabbar.

In September, 2017, the government instructed the telecom operators not to sell SIMs to the Rohingyas, warning them of regulatory measures if found issuing connections to the refugees.

After the government’s move, the Human Rights Watch on August 7 suggested that the Bangladesh government should end restrictions on Rohingyas’ freedom of movement and access to the internet and online communications.

‘Government restrictions have intensified following a failed attempt to repatriate refugees to Myanmar, a large rally by Rohingya refugees, and the killings of a local politician and four refugees,’ it said.

‘Bangladesh authorities have a major challenge in dealing with such a large number of refugees, but they have made matters worse by imposing restrictions on refugee communications and freedom of movement,’ said Brad Adams, Asia director of HRW.

The authorities should take a level-headed approach instead of overreacting to tensions and protests by isolating Rohingya refugees in camps, he said.

In a statement to New Age on internet closure, Association of Mobile Telecom Operators of Bangladesh secretary general SM Farhad on Wednesday said, ‘BTRC has instructed the mobile telecom operators to shut down 3G, 4G and LTE network round the clock in the Rohingya camp areas in Teknaf and Ukhia until further notice.’

‘The operators have already implemented the instruction accordingly,’ he said, adding, ‘However, the 2G service will remain active as per the instruction.’