DHAKA – Cellphone operators in Bangladesh said on Tuesday they cut off the high-speed internet in Rohingya refugee camps in the southeast of the country on the orders of the authorities.
“BTRC (Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission) has instructed the mobile telecom operators to shut down 3G/4G/LTE network 24/7 in the Rohingya camp areas in Teknaf and Ukhia until further notice,” Secretary General of the Association of Mobile Telecom Operators of Bangladesh (AMTOB), SM Farhad, said in statement.
“The operators have already implemented the instruction accordingly. However, the 2G service will remain active as per the instruction,” he added.
A BTRC spokesman confirmed the decision.
“The decision has been taken to strengthen the ongoing security measures,” Zakir Hossain Khan, the spokesman of the regulatory authorities, told Efe.
The complete shutdown of high-speed internet connections came little over a week after the same authorities ordered cellphone operators to shut down the 3G and 4G internet network from 5 pm to 6 am in refugee camps.
The Bangladeshi authorities also asked the operators last week to stop selling mobile phone SIM cards in refugee camp areas.
“The 13-hour daily shutdown puts approximately one million refugees at serious risk by cutting off communications with security, health, and other necessary services,” New York-based rights group Human Rights Watch said in a statement on Saturday.
Rohingyas are ineligible to buy SIM cards under existing Bangladesh rules, which require a valid passport or travel document for a foreign national, but Bangladeshi authorities found the use of mobile phones in the camps rampant.
Bangladesh launched a clampdown on Rohingyas after a second attempt to repatriate Rohingyas from Bangladesh to Myanmar failed on Aug. 22.
The refugee group held a rally in the Kutupalong camp on Aug. 25, the second anniversary of the start of the crisis.
Authorities said the Rohingyas had no permission to hold the rally, where according to police over 100,000 refugees attended.
Around 738,000 Rohingyas fled Myanmar to Bangladesh from Aug. 25, 2017, following a military campaign in response to an alleged attack by a Rohingya insurgent group against police and border posts.