The government has begun operating a radio station that is available exclusively in Maungdaw, northern Rakhine State, officials have told Frontier.
Mayu FM, which first hit the airwaves on February 1, is available on FM frequency 90.1 MHz in Maungdaw for eight hours a day, from 6am to 10am and from 4pm to 8pm. It broadcasts mainly news programs in three languages: Myanmar, Rakhine and Rohingya, the latter which is a dialect closely related to Chittagonian.
Access has been restricted to Maungdaw since early October, when the government enforced a heavy security crackdown after three police outposts were attacked. Reports have emerged of security forces using disproportionate force in their operations, but the government and military have dismissed them as false.
“The Union government informed us to transmit the program in Bengali [Rohingya] language on FM this month,” said San Nwe, spokesperson for the Rakhine State Hluttaw.
Mayu FM is being transmitted from the head office of state-run Myanmar Radio and Television in Nay Pyi Taw by staff who speak the three languages, said San Nwe.
“[Myanmar language] newspapers cannot reach rural areas [in Maungdaw]. Even if they can, residents cannot read well. They can only speak Bengali [Rohingya], so they only believe what their relatives [in Bangladesh] say. They need to know what the Myanmar government is doing there,” San Nwe said.
But few residents in Maungdaw say they have heard of the station.
Ko Aung Myaing, a Muslim living in Taungpyo Letwel, a sub-township of Maungdaw, said he had not heard of the station, asking if it was available on YouTube.
Ko Nyi Tun, an ethnic Rakhine living in downtown Maungdaw, said, “I have been watching Rakhine [language] programs. I have never heard of Mayu.”
EDITOR’S NOTE: An earlier version of this story incorrectly removed the term “Bengali” from direct quotations.