Joint patrol vessels with law enforcement personnel from China, Thailand, Laos and Myanmar, sail on the Lancang-Mekong River. File picture: Chen Haining/Xinhua

Yangon - Myanmar's government has come under fire from rights groups and lawmakers over its decision to cut mobile internet services for more than one million people living in conflict-afflicted areas.

The blackout began on June 21, after Myanmar's Ministry of Transport and Communications ordered four telecommunications companies to stop providing internet services to nine townships in Rakhine and Chin states, where the military is fighting the Arakan Army, which seeks political autonomy for Rakhine Buddhists.

An estimated 30,000 civilians have been displaced by the fighting this year in roughly the same area from where 730,000 Rohingya Muslims were displaced by military operations in 2017.

Ministry permanent secretary Soe Thein told local media on Monday that the shutdown was in line with Myanmar's Telecommunications Law, which allows for the suspension of services "when an emergency situation arises."

He added that "internet service will resume when the peace and stability are restored to the region."

Hla Saw, a lawmaker from the Arakan National Party, which represents the interests of Rakhine Buddhists, said the shutdown is a blemish on the record of the National League for Democracy government, led by Aung San Suu Kyi.

"This is an abuse of the people's fundamental democratic rights. Cities across the country can use the internet, but we cannot. Whom does this benefit? It shows that the current democratic government is weak in its ability to distinguish between right and wrong," he said.

dpa