Updated: February 6, 2021 3:48:33 pm
The new ruling military junta in Myanmar responded to ongoing protests against the recent coup by imposing a nationwide internet blackout, the NetBlocks Internet Observatory reported on Saturday.
Despite the blackout, demonstrations in the Southeast Asian country continued to grow with Saturday seeing the largest anti-coup protests yet as around 3,000 protesters marched near Yangon University.
Members of the crowd shouted “Military dictatorship should fall” and “Down with dictatorship.”
More than 100 police in riot gear were deployed to block them from proceeding and protesters left the area without confrontation.
They were expected to gather again in another part of the commercial capital later on Saturday.
Calls for protest against military rule have spread online and outpourings of dissent have become bolder.
Saturday’s internet blackout was the second time the military closed down online services, the first being on February 2 when the military arrested civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi and others.
Junta continues its campaign against online dissent
The junta had already cracked down on social media, shutting down Facebook and Twitter in recent days.
They had ordered telecom companies to block access to certain sites where users were organizing popular resistance. Facebook users had quickly gathered in the “Civil Disobedience Movement” forum before the service was shut down.
Norwegian telecom company Telenor confirmed that it had been asked to shut down access to social media services. The company said it had “challenged the necessity” of the order but gone ahead with it anyway.
Some users had been able to circumvent the block with VPN services with trending hashtags such as #WeNeedDemocracy and #HeartheVoiceofMyanmar receiving millions of mentions.
UN tells the military to relinquish power
The NetBlocks Internet Observatory revealed that Myanmar had been put under a second blackout in a tweet on Saturday explaining that “real-time network data show national connectivity falling to 54% of ordinary levels as users report difficulty getting online.”
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres told reporters on Friday that: “We will do everything we can to make the international community united in making sure that conditions are created for this coup to be reversed.”
His comment came after a UN special envoy made first contact with Myanmar’s deputy military commander and had urged the junta to step down and return power to the civilian government.
State media in the country reported on Saturday that military officials had met with the diplomats and asked them to work with the country’s new leaders.
“The Government understand the concerns of the international community on the continuation of Myanmar’s democratic transition process,” International Cooperation Minister Ko Ko Hlaing reportedly said in the meeting.
📣 The Indian Express is now on Telegram. Click here to join our channel (@indianexpress) and stay updated with the latest headlines