Bangladesh authorities impose mobile phone ban on Rohingya

Source:AFP Published: 2017/9/24 22:57:55

Bangladesh has banned telecommunication companies from selling mobile phone connections to Rohingya refugees, citing security concerns for the latest restrictions, officials said Sunday.

Bangladesh's four mobile phone providers were threatened with fines if they provide any of the nearly 430,000 newly arrived refugees from Myanmar with phone plans while the ban is in force.

"For the time being, they [Rohingya] can't buy any SIM cards," Enayet Hossain, a senior officer at the telecoms ministry, told AFP on Sunday.

The decision to impose a communication blackout on the stateless Muslim minority was justified for security reasons, said junior telecoms minister Tarana Halim.

Bangladesh already prohibits the sale of SIM cards to its own citizens who cannot provide an official identity card, in a bid to frustrate the organizational capacity of homegrown militants.

"We took the step [of welcoming the Rohingya] on humanitarian grounds but at the same time our own security should not be compromised," Halim said.

Bangladesh's telecoms authority said the ban could be lifted once biometric identity cards are issued to the newly arrived refugees, a process the army says could take six months.

It is just the latest restriction imposed on the Rohingya who have fled in huge numbers from violence in neighboring Rakhine State into squalid camps in Bangladesh's southernmost Cox's Bazar district in the past four weeks.

The nearly 430,000 refugees have been herded by the military into a handful of overstretched camps near the border, where tens of thousands live in the open without shelter.

Many have been evicted from squatting in forests and farmlands by police and soldiers, who have been ordered to keep the Rohingya from seeking shelter in major cities and nearby towns.



Posted in: ASIA-PACIFIC

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