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Myanmar junta shuts Twitter, Instagram to curb protests

PTI Yangon | Updated on February 06, 2021

‘We will never be together with them. We want that kind of government to collapse as soon as possible’

Military authorities in charge of Myanmar broadened a ban on social media following this week’s coup and shut Twitter and Instagram, as residents in the biggest city again banged pots and plastic bottles to show their opposition to the army takeover.

In addition to Facebook and related apps, the military government on Friday ordered communications operators and internet service providers to cut access to Twitter and Instagram. The statement said that some people are trying to use both platforms to spread fake news.

Also read: Days before coup, IMF sent Myanmar $350 million in emergency aid

Netblocks, which tracks social media disruptions and shutdowns, confirmed the loss of Twitter service starting 10 PM. Instagram was already subject to restrictions.

Telenor, a Norway-based telecommunications company operating in Myanmar though a subsidiary, said it had complied with the order but also challenged “the necessity and proportionality of the directive.” State media are heavily censored and Facebook in particular has become the main source of news and information in the country. It is also used to organise protests.

For the fourth night Friday, the cacophony of noise from windows and balconies reverberated through the commercial capital of Yangon, as resistance to the coup and arrests of activists and politicians gathered steam.

Earlier Friday, nearly 300 members of Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy party declared themselves as the sole legitimate representatives of the people and asked for international recognition as the country’s government.

They were supposed to take their seats on Monday in a new session of Parliament following November elections when the military announced it was taking power for a year.

The military accused Suu Kyi and her party of failing to act on its complaints that the election was fraudulent, though the election commission said it had no found no evidence to support the claims.

In New York, Secretary-General Antonio Guterres pledged on Friday that the United Nations will do everything it can to unite the international community and create conditions for the military coup in Myanmar to be reversed.

He told a news conference it is “absolutely essential” to carry out the Security Council’s calls for a return to democracy, respect for the results of the November elections, and release of all people detained by the military, “which means the reversal of the coup that took place.” Guterres said Christine Schraner Burgener, the UN special envoy for Myanmar, had a first contact with the military since the coup and expressed the UN’s strong opposition to the takeover.

According to UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric, she reiterated to Deputy Commander-in-Chief Vice General Soe Win “the secretary-general’s strong condemnation of the military’s action that disrupted the democratic reforms that were taking place in the country.” In addition to 134 officials and lawmakers who were detained in the coup, another 18 activists also are being held, said the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners in Myanmar.

On Thursday, authorities arrested four among about 20 protesters who had gathered outside the University of Medicine in Mandalay to oppose the coup. On Friday, Suu Kyi’s senior aide, Win Htein, was picked up in Mayangone township.

He told BBC in a phone call early Friday that he was being arrested for sedition, which carries a maximum penalty of life imprisonment.

Suu Kyi and President Win Myint are also under house arrest and have been charged with minor offenses, seen by many as merely providing a legal veneer for their detention. She was described by her party as being in good health.

In the largest rallies since the takeover, hundreds of students and teachers took to the streets on Friday to demand the military hand power back to elected politicians. Demonstrations spread to several parts of the country, even in the tightly-controlled capital of Naypyitaw.

“We will never be together with them,” lecturer Nwe Thazin said of the military at a protest at the Yangon University of Education. “We want that kind of government to collapse as soon as possible.” Myanmar was under military rule for five decades after a 1962 coup, and Suu Kyi’s five years as leader since 2015 had been its most democratic period despite continued use of repressive colonial-era laws and persecution of minority Rohingya Muslims.

Published on February 06, 2021

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