Myanmar military government blocks Facebook as resistance grows to coup - GulfToday

Myanmar military government blocks Facebook as resistance grows to coup


A motorcyclist rides past soldiers in a military armoured vehicle in Myitkyina, Kachin state, Myanmar. AFP

Gulf Today Report

Facebook services in Myanmar were disrupted on Thursday as Monday’s coup surged amid calls for civil disobedience to protest the ousting of the elected civilian government and its leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

Days after the army seized power, as UN chief Antonio Guterres warned the world must rally to ensure the military putsch fails.

Facebook is especially popular in Myanmar and the ousted government had commonly made public announcements on the social media site.

Myanmar plunged back into direct military rule on Monday when soldiers detained de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi and other civilian leaders in a series of dawn raids, ending the country’s brief experiment with democracy.

Myanmar-2LSoldiers ride in PTL-02 ant-tank 6x6 armoured vehicles in Myitkyina, Kachin state, Myanmar. AFP

"Telecom providers in Myanmar have been ordered to temporarily block Facebook. We urge authorities to restore connectivity so that people in Myanmar can communicate with family and friends and access important information,” said a Facebook spokesperson.

The coup has sparked international condemnation and fears the military will drag 54 million people back to the decades of junta rule that turned Myanmar into one of Asia’s most impoverished and repressive nations.

With soldiers and armoured cars back on the streets of major cities, the takeover has not been met by any large street protests.

But people have flocked to social media to voice opposition and share plans for civil disobedience, especially on Facebook — which for many in Myanmar is the gateway to the internet.

On Thursday, Facebook and internet monitors confirmed service providers were restricting access to some services, including Facebook itself, its messaging app, WhatsApp and Instagram.

Myanmar-1Newly elected members of parliament leave a guesthouse with their belongings in Naypyidaw, Myanmar. AFP

“We are aware that access to Facebook is currently disrupted for some people,” a company spokesperson told AFP.

“We urge authorities to restore connectivity so that people in Myanmar can communicate with their families and friends and access important information.”

NetBlocks, which monitors internet outages around the world, said multiple internet providers in Myanmar were restricting access “as operators comply with an apparent blocking order.”

Coup must fail

Army chief Min Aung Hlaing’s coup has left the international community scrambling to respond.


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On Wednesday, UN Secretary-General Guterres said he would pressure Myanmar’s generals to reverse course, in his most forceful comments yet.

“We will do everything we can to mobilise all the key actors and international community to put enough pressure on Myanmar to make sure that this coup fails,” Guterres told The Washington Post.

“After elections that I believe took place normally and after a large period of transition, it’s absolutely unacceptable to reverse the results of the elections and the will of the people,” he added.

Min Aung Hlaing justified his coup by alleging widespread voter fraud during November’s election, which international observers and Myanmar’s own election monitor declared broadly fair and free.

Suu Kyi, who has not been seen in public since she was detained, won a huge landslide with her National League for Democracy (NLD) while the military’s favoured parties received a drubbing.

Myanmar’s junta-era constitution ensures the military retains considerable influence, including a quarter of parliamentary seats and control of key ministries.

But analysts say top generals feared their influence was waning and were dismayed by the enduring appeal of Suu Kyi with voters.

On Wednesday authorities brought an obscure charge against the 75-year-old to justify her ongoing detention.

According to her party, she was charged with an offence under Myanmar’s import and export law after authorities found unregistered walkie-talkies at her home.

A similarly unorthodox charge under the country’s disaster management law against President Win Myint revolved around him allegedly breaching anti-coronavirus measures last year by meeting voters on the campaign trail.

The United States said it was “disturbed” by the charges.

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