Conflicts & War

Internet restored on day of general strike, protests against Myanmar coup

Yangon, Myanmar, Feb 8 (efe-epa).- As fresh protests and a general strike began across Myanmar on Monday morning, internet connection had returned to near-normal levels after being down most of the weekend at the orders of the military junta that took power in a coup exactly one week ago.

“A week after the onset of internet disruptions in #Myanmar amid a military coup and detention of civilian leaders, connectivity has returned to 95% of ordinary levels,” said internet monitor Netblocks.

“However, social media remain restricted for many and the situation remains tense,” the London-based organization said, referring to blocks on Facebook and Twitter, which many users manage to circumvent through Virtual Private Networks.

On Saturday, the military ordered all telecommunications operators in the country to block their internet services nationwide, which led access to fall to 14 percent of the usual levels, according to Netblocks.

It was a blackout that coincided with the largest public demonstrations rejecting the coup and demanding the release of those detained by the military, including the Nobel Peace Prize laureate and deposed leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

The Ministry of Transport and Communications, now controlled by the military junta, ordered the disconnection to prevent the spread of “fake news” and to maintain the “stability” of the country, with the implicit objective of curbing dissent.

On Sunday, during a new day of protests that has spread to even the most remote corners of the country, the networks suddenly became operational again.

For Monday, large protests were expected in Yangon, the former capital and most populated city, as well as other places throughout the country, while a general strike as part of the Civil Disobedience Movement, including many public servants, was expected.

“Myanmar is rising up to free all who have been detained and reject military dictatorship once and for all,” said Tom Andrews, UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar on Monday.

At least 152 people arrested in the past week are still detained, including two sentenced to two years in prison on charges that have not been specified, while the junta has released another 13 people, said the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners.

The military, who ruled the country with an iron fist from 1962 to 2011, seized power last Monday, alleging fraud in the November elections, where Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy party won a landslide 83 percent of the seats up for grabs.

The new military junta has not spoken on the protests, and state-controlled media such as the Global New Light of Myanmar newspaper and public television have not reported on the peaceful protests against the coup.

Despite the holding of elections and a process towards a “disciplined democracy” that started in 2011, the military still maintained extensive control over the political and economic aspects of the country. EFE-EPA


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