Myanmar internet blockade continues amid new demonstrations
Update 1: Adds detail about number of detainees, internet usage
Yangon, Myanmar, Feb 7 (efe-epa).- Myanmar continued Sunday with the nationwide internet blockade imposed by the military junta that launched a coup earlier in the week, as demonstrations protesting the putsch continued in Yangon.
The outage, ordered the day earlier, does not affect national and international phone lines, which were still operational.
The Netblocks monitoring portal reported Saturday morning in its latest update that “the country remains in the midst of a nationwide internet blackout with connectivity stagnant at only 14 percent above usual levels.”
Thousands returned Sunday to the streets of Yangon, the former capital and most populated city, to show their rejection of the coup led by Gen. Min Aung Hlaing against the deposed democratic government of Aung San Suu Kyi.
Demonstrators, many donning the red color associated to Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD) party, rallied citywide, including at the University of Rangoon, according to EFE’s Myanmar correspondent.
The Association of Assistance for Political Prisoners said Saturday night that 152 people are still detained, including two sentenced to two years in prison on charges that have not been specified, while authorities have released another 12 people who had been detained during the putsch.
This peaceful movement of civil disobedience also demands the release of all those detained by the military, including Suu Kyi, and that the army respect the result of November elections, where the NLD won in a landslide victory.
A day earlier, before telemarketers cut off internet access, citizens of the old capital took some of the key avenues in spontaneous concentrations that grew in number throughout the day before dispersing in the afternoon.
Police deployed several operations to quell the demonstrations, although there were no clashes with protesters.
In addition to Yangon, in at least nine other towns, such as Mandalay — the second most populous city — and Naypyitaw — the capital the military founded in 2008 — there were also mobilizations in favor of democracy.
“The brave people of Burma must know they are not alone as they defend their fragile and young democracy. I urge the UN Human Rights Council to immediately convene a Special Session” to “address the development of the crisis,” Tom Andrews, UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Burma, said in a statement.
Operator Telenor, based in Norway, said Saturday that the blocking of the internet was originally ordered until Monday.
The military, who ruled the country from 1962 to 2011, seized power Monday by alleging massive fraud in the November elections, where Suu Ky’s party won 83 percent of parliamentary seats.
The new parliament was due to sit Monday, but the military forced an emergency decree and seized power.
To stop the incipient civil disobedience movement, the military junta has ordered in recent days the blockage of access to social networks Facebook, and some of its platforms such as Instagram or WhatsApp, as well as Twitter.
Despite elections being held and the process started in 2011 in Myanmar toward a “disciplined democracy,” as it was named by the military, it still maintained extensive control over political and economic aspects of the country. EFE-EPA