Myanmar protests proceed regardless of ‘near-total web shutdown’ | Myanmar Information
Thousands of people have gathered again in Myanmar’s largest city, Yangon, denouncing this week’s military coup and demanding the release of elected leader Aung San Suu Kyi.
Protesters, who marched in Yangon for the second time in a row on Sunday, carried red balloons – the color of Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD) – and sang: “We don’t want a military dictatorship! We want democracy! “
They walked in the middle of the street under bright sunshine, waving NLD flags. They made the three-digit greeting that has become the symbol of protest against the February 1st coup.
The drivers honked their horns and the passengers held up photos of Aung San Suu Kyi.
“We will go forward and keep demanding until we get democracy. Down with the military dictatorship, ”said 37-year-old protester Myo Win.
A monk holds up the three-finger salute during a demonstration against the military coup in Yangon on February 7, 2021 [Ye Aung Thu/ AFP]The scenes aired on Facebook were some of the few to have come out of the country since Myanmar’s military authorities shut down the internet and restricted phone lines on Saturday.
Netblocks, a UK-based service that tracks internet disruptions, said Saturday afternoon that Myanmar “has a near-complete internet shutdown” with connectivity falling to just 16 percent of normal levels.
The widespread outage followed Friday’s military order to block Twitter and Instagram as some people tried to use the platforms to spread what the authorities viewed as fake news. Facebook had already been blocked earlier this week – albeit not entirely effectively.
Update: In #Myanmar there is now an almost complete Internet shutdown.
Network data show a breakdown in connectivity to 16% of normal values from around 2 p.m. local time 📉
The loss of information is likely to severely restrict reporting on anti-coup protests 📵
📉https: //t.co/Jgc20OBk27 pic.twitter.com/b6pIM0MKQQ
– NetBlocks (@netblocks) February 6, 2021
The loss of communications has made efforts to resist the coup more urgent. The new rally followed the biggest protests to date on Saturday, when tens of thousands came out in cities across the country to condemn the coup that stalled a decade-long experiment in democracy.
In Yangon, thousands of people – factory workers and students among them – marched down a main street on Saturday singing, “Military dictator, fail, fail; Democracy, win, win ”.
No violence was reported.
#HAPPENING Protest against the military dictatorship – workers, young people and activists organized it – YANGON #WhatsHappeningInMyanmar #Burma #democracy #BurmaCoup pic.twitter.com/kcSDmJQPAO
– Cape Diamond (@cape_diamond) February 6, 2021
Similar large demonstrations took place in at least two other parts of the city. At Yangon City Hall, demonstrators presented flowers to the police, some of them carrying assault rifles.
During a demonstration against the military coup in Yangon on February 6, 2021, a protester hands bouquets of flowers to a line of riot police [Stringer/ AFP]Protesters protest against the military coup and demand the release of elected leader Aung San Suu Kyi on February 6, 2021 in Yangon, Myanmar [Stringer/Reuters]Thousands more also took to the streets in Mandalay, Myanmar’s second city, and the military-built capital Naypyidaw, where the country’s government officials lived, where protesters sang anti-coup slogans and demanded the release of Aung San Suu Kyi.
“# Myanmar’s military and police must ensure that the right to peaceful assembly is fully respected and that protesters are not subjected to reprisals,” the United Nations human rights bureau tweeted after the protests on Saturday.
“Heinous and inconsiderate”
In Myanmar, a civil disobedience movement has built up throughout the week, under which doctors and teachers refuse to work. Every night people beat pots and pans in a sign of anger.
As the protests gained momentum over the weekend, the military ordered telecommunications networks to block access to social media platforms, which have been an important source of independent news since the coup, and to organize tools for protest.
“The generals are now trying to cripple the civil resistance movement – and keep the outside world in the dark – by blocking virtually all Internet access,” said Tom Andrews, UN special rapporteur on human rights in Myanmar.
In a statement, Twitter said it was “deeply concerned” with the order and vowed to “work to end destructive government-led shutdowns”. His spokesman said the blockades “undermine public conversation and people’s right to have their voices heard”.
Facebook also asked the military to reverse their order.
“At this critical time, Myanmar people need access to critical information and to be able to communicate with their loved ones,” said Rafael Frankel, Facebook’s director of public policy for emerging markets in the Asia-Pacific region, in a statement.
Amnesty International called the shutdown “a hideous and ruthless decision” at a time when Myanmar was coping with the coup, years of civil war and the COVID-19 crisis. The United Nations Human Rights Bureau also said on Twitter that “Internet and communications services must be fully restored to ensure freedom of expression and access to information”.
Army chief Min Aung Hlaing took power on February 1, accusing Aung San Suu Kyi and her party, the National League for Democracy (NLD), of failing to respond to complaints that last November’s elections were fraudulent. The electoral commission said it had found no evidence to support the claims.
The military announced a one-year state of emergency and promised to hand over power after new elections without specifying a time frame.
Aung San Suu Kyi, a Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, has been accused of illegally importing six walkie-talkies, while President Win Myint is accused of violating COVID-19 restrictions. Neither has been seen since the coup. Their lawyer said they were being held in their homes.
The coup sparked international outrage. The United States is considering sanctions against the generals and the UN Security Council demands the release of all detainees.
It has also deepened tensions between the United States and China, which has close ties with the Myanmar military. State Secretary Antony Blinken called Chinese top diplomat Yang Jiechi in a phone call on Friday to condemn the coup, the Foreign Ministry said.
The generals have few overseas interests susceptible to sanctions, but the military’s massive business investments could suffer if foreign partners depart – as Japanese beverage company Kirin Holdings announced on Friday.
Meanwhile, the Australian Foreign Minister’s office said in a statement Saturday that the government was “deeply concerned about reports of the arbitrary detention of Australians and other foreign nationals in Myanmar”.
The statement said the government was particularly concerned about an Australian who was detained in a police station.
Reuters news agency identified him as Sean Turnell, an Australian economic adviser to Aung San Suu Kyi.
Australian academic Sean Turnell was arrested in Myanmar.
Daw Aung San Suu Kyi’s economic adviser is the first known foreign arrest since the military coup on Monday February 1st. # 9Newshttps: //t.co/EOfN6pcXXz
– 9News Melbourne (@ 9NewsMelb) February 6, 2021
Aung San Suu Kyi spent 15 years under house arrest after leading pro-democracy protests against the long-ruling military junta in 1988.
After sharing power with a civilian government, the army began democratic reforms in 2011. This resulted in the NLD being elected in a landslide victory four years later.
The November election should cement a difficult democratic transition.
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