Myanmar’s junta blocked Facebook on Thursday, just days after the army seized power, as the United Nations warned the world must rally to ensure the coup does not succeed.
People have flocked to social media to voice opposition to the coup, as well as share ideas to rise up against the actions of the military, with Facebook a popular option to galvanize support.
However, the junta took steps on Thursday to silence the people.
Myanmar’s Ministry of Communications and Information said Facebook, used by half of the country’s 54 million population, would be blocked until at least February 7.
“Currently, the people, who are troubling the country’s stability, are spreading fake news and misinformation, and causing misunderstanding among people by using Facebook,” the ministry said in a statement.
Facebook confirmed that access was “currently disrupted for some people,” also saying that the restrictions had hit its instant messaging service, WhatsApp, as well as Instagram and all communication platforms owned by the social media giant.
Norwegian-owned telecoms company Telenor said that authorities in Myanmar had ordered it to “temporarily block” access to Facebook, saying it had to comply but that it had severe concerns about “necessity and proportionality” and whether the measure complied with human rights law.
With soldiers and armored vehicles back on the streets of major cities across the country, the takeover has not yet sparked any significant civil unrest.
Residents of Myanmar’s largest city, Yangon, and other urban areas, though, did manage to bang pots and pans together, while some people honked car horns for a second night on Wednesday in protest against the coup. Images of the disgruntlement had circulated widely on social media, and on Facebook in particular.
UN’s Guterres: ‘Absolutely unacceptable’
Myanmar plummeted back into direct military rule on Monday when the army detained de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi, and other civilian leaders, in a series of early morning raids, ending the nation’s brief flirtation with democracy.
The coup sparked international condemnation, with the United Nations joining the chorus of disapproval.
UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres said he would pressure Myanmar’s generals to relinquish power.
“We will do everything we can to mobilize all the key actors and international community to put enough pressure on Myanmar to make sure that this coup fails,” Guterres told US newspaper The Washington Post.
“After elections that I believe took place normally and after a large period of transition, it’s absolutely unacceptable to reverse the results of the elections and the will of the people,” he added.
Military unhappy with election outcome
Fears abound that army chief Min Aung Hlaing’s coup will drag Myanmar back to the decades of junta rule that made the country both poverty-stricken and repressive.
Min Aung Hlaing justified his actions by alleging widespread voter fraud had taken place during last November’s national election, which saw Nobel Peace laureate Suu Kyi win a huge landslide.
The outcome did not go down well with the military as its favored parties received a drubbing at the hands of Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD) party.
International observers and Myanmar’s own electoral monitor declared the nationwide ballot as broadly fair and free.