Internet Shutdown As Thousands Protest The Coup In Myanmar

Myanmar Protests

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 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 reported.

Human rights group Amnesty International called the shutdown “heinous and reckless” and warned it could put the people of Myanmar at risk of human rights violations.

The military has not commented. It temporarily blocked access to the internet following the coup on 1st 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, while residents clapped or banged pots and pans on their doorsteps.

Many households have also been displaying red stickers in their windows in support of Ms Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD) party, the BBC’s Burmese editor Soe Win Than reports.

Police with riot shields used barbed wire to block roads and water cannon were put in place in some areas as a precaution, but the demonstration reportedly remained peaceful, with no attempt by protesters to pass police lines.

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

One female protester said she would not accept the “unjust seizing of power”.

“Because of military dictatorship, many of our lives have been destroyed,” she said, adding: “We cannot allow our future generations to meet the same fate.”

Speaking from Yangon, Britain’s ambassador to Myanmar, Dan Chugg, told the media that people were taking to the streets in increasing numbers.

“The grief and the sadness of the last few days is gradually turning to anger,” he said, adding: “Doctors are refusing to work and civil servants have been refusing to work. There’s quite a sense around the country of unhappiness and outrage at what’s happened.”

Another demonstration took place on Saturday in Myanmar’s second city, Mandalay.