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Myanmar coup: Internet shutdown as crowds protest against military

745ng | February 6, 2021

Myanmar’s military rulers have shut down the country’s internet as thousands of people joined the largest rally yet against Monday’s coup.

A near-total internet blackout is in effect with connectivity falling to 16% of ordinary levels, said the monitoring group NetBlocks Internet Observatory.

In the main city, Yangon, crowds chanted “Military dictator, fail, fail; Democracy, win, win”.

Police with riot shields have blocked the main roads into the city centre.

The internet shutdown happened hours after the military had blocked access to Twitter and Instagram to stop people mobilising for protests. Facebook had been banned a day earlier.

Many users had evaded the restrictions on social media by using virtual private networks (VPNs) but the more general blackout severely disrupted that.

Civil society organisations urged internet providers and mobile networks to challenge the blackout order, Reuters news agency reports. Human rights group Amnesty International called the shutdown “heinous and reckless”.

The military has not commented. It temporarily blocked access to the internet following the coup on 1 February.

On Saturday morning, protesters including factory workers and young students called for the release of those detained by the army, including elected leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

They marched through the streets of Yangon as city buses sounded their horns in support. Bystanders flashed the three-finger Hunger Games salute, which has become a symbol of defiance against authoritarianism in the region.

Demonstrators gave police roses and bottles of drinking water, calling on them to support the people not the new regime.

“We’re here to fight for our next generation, to free them from a military dictatorship,” one woman at the rally told Agence France-Presse. “We have to end it now.”

Riot police block a road in Yangon

Myanmar – also known as Burma – has remained mostly calm in the aftermath of the coup, and there were no immediate reports of violence after Saturday’s protests. More demonstrations were expected to be held later.

The military authorities are hunkered down in the capital, Nay Pyi Daw, and have so far avoided direct engagement with the protesters.

The BBC’s Nyein Chan in Yangon says the Burmese know very well the violent crackdowns that the military is capable of. The country was ruled by an oppressive military government from 1962 to 2011.

But now that people have had time to digest what is happening, they are finding different ways to get their voices heard, our correspondent says.

Ms Suu Kyi is under house arrest, according to her lawyer. Police documents show she is accused of illegally importing and using communications equipment – walkie-talkies – at her home in the capital.

Meanwhile, an Australian academic, who was an economic adviser to Ms Suu Kyi, was detained in Yangon. Sean Turnell told the BBC he had been confined to his hotel and did not know what he might be charged with.

Written by 745ng

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