On Thursday, Myanmar’s generals instructed internet providers to block access to Facebook, as UN leader Antonio Guterres said the world would mobilise to ensure the defeat of the military coup.
On Monday, as de facto chief Aung San Suu Kyi and other civilian leaders were arrested in a series of dawn raids, the Southeast Asian nation was thrown back into direct military control, ending the country’s brief experiment with democracy.
The coup triggered international criticism and concerns that 54 million civilians would be dragged by the military back to the decades of junta rule that turned Myanmar into one of the poorest and most authoritarian nations in Asia.
The overthrow was not confronted with any major street demonstrations, with soldiers back on the streets of major cities.
But citizens, especially on Facebook, have flocked to social media to voice opposition and share proposals for civil disobedience.
“Activist Thinzar Shunlei Yi, who is behind a so-called “Civil Disobedience Campaign” fanning out across social media platforms, said, “We have internet control […] so we have been using this since day one to resist the military junta.
On Thursday, Telenor, one of the key providers of telecoms in the region, announced that the authorities had directed it to “temporarily block” Facebook access.
The Norwegian-owned corporation said it had to comply but “does not believe that the request, in accordance with international human rights law, is based on necessity and proportionality.”
Facebook acknowledged access “for some people is currently disrupted” and encouraged officials to restore connections.
NetBlocks, which tracks internet outages around the globe, said Facebook-owned applications such as Instagram and WhatsApp were also hit by the disturbances.
Facebook is the key to the internet and a crucial means of gathering knowledge for those in Myanmar.
Aye, a 32-year-old entrepreneur opposed to the coup, said to AFP, “The first thing we look at each morning is our phone, the last thing we look at in the night is our phone.”
On Thursday, a small rally began in front of Mandalay Medicine University, where demonstrators held signs saying “People’s Protest Against the Military Coup!” ”.
Local media said that four people were detained by police, but the authorities did not confirm AFP’s detentions.
‘Coup must fail’
The coup by Army Chief Min Aung Hlaing left the international community struggling to respond.
UN Secretary-General Guterres said on Wednesday that, in his most forceful remarks yet, he would pressure Myanmar’s generals to change direction.
Guterres told The Washington Post, “We will do everything we can to mobilise all the key actors and the international community to put enough pressure on Myanmar to make sure that this coup fails.”
“Reversing the results of the elections and the will of the people is absolutely unacceptable.”
By claiming systematic voter fraud during November’s referendum, Min Aung Hlaing justified his coup.
With her National League for Democracy (NLD), Suu Kyi, who has not been seen in public since she was jailed, won a major landslide while a drubbing was offered to the military’s favoured parties.
No major concerns that may have compromised the legitimacy of the vote were identified by foreign and local monitors, as well as Myanmar’s own election monitor.
The junta-era constitution of Myanmar guarantees that the military holds substantial power, including a quarter of parliamentary seats and control over main ministries.
Yet observers say that top generals worried that their power was declining and were dismayed by Suu Kyi’s enduring appeal.
Authorities brought an obscure allegation against the 75-year-old on Wednesday to explain her continued arrest.
According to her party, after authorities discovered unregistered walkie-talkies at her house, she was charged with an offence under Myanmar’s import and export rule.
The United States said the accusation had “disturbed” it.
Myanmar’s military has proclaimed a one-year state of emergency and said that, after its accusations have been resolved, it will hold new elections.
This has caused tremendous frustration within the country, but it is dangerous to oppose the military.
With thousands of dissidents, including Suu Kyi, jailed for years on end, opposition was quashed under junta rule.
Censorship was widespread and deadly action was often used by the military, most notably during major demonstrations in 1988 and 2007.
A alert has also been provided by the new government asking people not to talk or share anything that might “foster riots or an unstable situation.”
On Tuesday, the UN Security Council held an emergency meeting but refused to vote on a declaration condemning the coup.
It called for the help of China and Russia, who both exercise veto power as permanent members of the Security Council and are the key backers of Myanmar at the UN, to be adopted.
Diplomats said Russia and China were calling for more time to finalise the response from the Security Council.