Few in Myanmar have personal computers, with the majority relying on mobile phones to access the internet for communications and information — making those under the blackout especially vulnerable to COVID-19.
Rights groups have also condemned the blocking of several local media websites and are urging telecom firms to push back against the government’s orders.
Rakhine state is also home to the Rohingya, a Muslim minority group that faced a brutal crackdown by the military in 2017.
Some 750,000 fled to neighboring Bangladesh in violence that has led to charges of genocide against Myanmar at the UN’s top court.
The 600,000 Rohingya remaining in Rakhine live in what Amnesty International has branded “apartheid conditions”, with little freedom of movement.
“We want to know more information regarding COVID-19, what’s happening to the displaced people in Sittwe (Rakhine’s capital) and what’s happening in Bangladesh,” Abdullah, a Rohingya resident from Mrauk U township, told AFP by phone.
They now struggle to contact relatives, send them money or even check the weather forecast, he added.
Schoolteacher Aung Win in Buthidaung township said he was unable to access lessons from the education department before the new academic year begins in July.
“We just want the internet back as soon as possible,” he said.