For the sake of state security, access to 3G and 4G internet has been suspended at Rohingya camps in Teknaf and Ukhia of Cox’s Bazar district.
The moves have come with a view to stopping malpractices in information technology by Rohingya refugees. Besides, the authorities concerned are also considering applying some new strategies, including installation of cell-phone jammers in Rohingya camp areas to control telecommunications among the refugees.
The government has opted to reduce internet facilities in Rohingya camp areas as a section of Rohingya people were found to spread false and fabricated news on internet as well as to spread various provocative videos through youtube, facebook and other social media. Rohingya refugees were carrying out such activities while the government was trying to repatriate them to their homeland, Myanmar. Around 11,00,000 Rohingya refugees are now sheltered in 11 camps in Cox’s Bazar and despite an agreement between the two countries to send them back, none of them could be repatriated to their country. Rather, they were carrying out various criminal and provocative activities.
According to sources, the Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission (BTRC) has suspended the 3G and 4G services in Rohingya camp areas in Teknaf and Ukhia for an indefinite period. BTRC Senior Assistant Director Zakir Hossain said, the services were suspended on Tuesday night, and will remain effective until further notice. All the mobile operators were earlier directed to suspend 3G and 4G services between 5:00pm and 6:00am every day in Cox's Bazar Rohingya camp areas, he said.
He further said, the BTRC on Monday night ordered mobile operators to suspend 3G and 4G data services in the areas. Officials of the BTRC also said that the Long Term Evolution (LTE ) networks in the Rohingya camp areas have been cut off. A press statement signed by S.M. Farhad, the secretary general of the Association of Mobile Telecom Operators of Bangladesh, said that only 2G services on the internet will remain active in the areas.
Following an earlier order issued by the government, all the operators have already halted the sale of SIM cards in the camps. The clampdown has disrupted communications between different camps and with Rohingyas still in Myanmar. According to sources, the 2G service in the internet only has access to make voice calls and send SMS. Besides, after the suspension of the 3G and 4G services, it would not be possible to make video calls through internet. Accordingly, propaganda through social media will also be stopped due to slow speed of internet.
It is widely known that thousands of Rohingya refugees had been using mobile phones where none of them is supposed to get any SIM of any Bangladeshi mobile operator. Only the citizens of Bangladesh have the right to get any SIM and it requires his or her national identity card. But, a section of unscrupulous officials of different mobile operators had been selling SIM cards to the Rohingya people with the support of a number of Bangladeshis.