6 Feb 2021

Myanmar military rulers order block on Twitter, Instagram 'until further notice'

11:09 am on 6 February 2021

The new military rulers of Myanmar are ordering mobile operators and internet service providers to block access to Twitter and Instagram in the country until "further notice", Norwegian telecom Telenor says.

People take part in a noise campaign on the street after calls for protest against the military coup emerged on social media, in Yangon on February 5, 2021.

A night-time street protest organised via social media takes place in Yangon. Photo: AFP

The government had already ordered internet providers on Thursday to block Facebook, which counts half of the population of 54 million as users, until this weekend.

The Ministry of Communications and Information Technology did not immediately answer a request for comment, but said previously it had blocked Facebook for the sake of "stability".

Twitter, which is also facing pressure from authorities in India, did not immediately answer requests for comment.

A spokesman for Facebook confirmed the block on Instagram.

"We urge authorities to restore connectivity so that people in Myanmar can communicate with family and friends and access important information," he told Reuters.

In a statement, Telenor expressed "grave concern" about the directive and said it had challenged its necessity to authorities.

Since the ban on Facebook, thousands in Myanmar have flocked to Twitter and Instagram to express their opposition to Monday's takeover by the army and the ousting and arrest of elected leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

Myanmar's State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi speaks during a meeting with citizens as part of 68th Kayah State Day anniversary events in the state capital Loikaw on January 15, 2020.

Elected leader Aung San Suu Kyi has been under house arrest since the coup. Photo: AFP

Many people are using social media and pro-democracy hashtags to criticise the army's takeover and call for peaceful protests until the result of November's election, which was won in a landslide by Suu Kyi's party, is respected.

The hashtags #RespectOurVotes, #HearTheVoiceofMyanmar, and #SaveMyanmar all had hundreds of thousands of interactions by Friday, according to hashtag tracker BrandMentions.

Teachers, students among protesters

Meanwhile, teachers and students have joined the protests against Monday's military coup, the BBC reports.

Demonstrators at a university in the biggest city, Yangon, chanted support for Suu Kyi and wore red ribbons, her party's colour.

Suu Kyi, who has not been seen in public since Monday, is under house arrest, according to her lawyer. He said he was seeking her unconditional release and that of the president, who was also detained, but he had been unable to meet them.

Myanmar, which is also known as Burma, has remained mostly calm in the aftermath of the coup, which has plunged the South East Asian country into uncertainty.

On Friday afternoon, hundreds of teachers and students gathered outside Dagon University in Yangon, where they displayed the three-finger salute - a sign that has been adopted by protesters in the region to show their opposition to authoritarian rule.

Myanmar university teachers make the three finger salute with red ribbons on their uniform during a ''Civil Disobedience Campaign'' against military coup at Yangon University of Education in Yangon, Myanmar on February 5, 2021.

University teachers in Yangon make the three finger salute with red ribbons on their uniform during a civil disobedience campaign against the military coup. Photo: AFP

They chanted their support for Suu Kyi and carried red flags.

"We will not let our generation suffer under this kind of military dictatorship," Min Sithu, a student, told the AFP news agency.

There have been a number of demonstrations in different parts of Myanmar - the first large-scale street protests seen in the country since the coup.

Residents in some cities, including Yangon, have conducted nightly protests from their homes, banging pots and pans and singing revolutionary songs. There have also been daytime flash mobs.

A woman poses for a photo as she holds up the three-finger salute and calls for the release of detained civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi in Yangon on February 5, 2021,

A woman gives the three-fingered salute in Yangon. Photo: AFP

About 70 MPs are said to have held an insurgent parliament, to replicate the parliamentary session that was supposed to take place this week.

79-year-old detained

In a pre-dawn phone call with BBC Burmese, Win Htein, a 79-year-old patron of the NLD and strong supporter of Suu Kyi, said he was being taken to the capital, Nay Pyi Taw, by members of the police and the military.

He said he was being detained under sedition laws - which carry a maximum punishment of life imprisonment - although he was not told the exact charge.

"They don't like what I've been talking about. They are afraid of what I'm saying," he said.

The military overthrew Suu Kyi's government after it claimed a November election won by the NLD was fraudulent, though the country's election commission said there was no evidence to back up these allegations.

The move has been met with global outrage. On Thursday, US President Joe Biden called on the military to "relinquish power" and release detained officials and activists. The US had already threatened severe sanctions on Myanmar.

However, the military is seemingly undeterred, continuing down its path of consolidating power and appointing new ministers, the BBC's South East Asia correspondent Jonathan Head said.

The UN Security Council also called on the military authorities in Myanmar to release Suu Kyi and other detained leaders - but stopped short of condemning the coup.

In doing so, it has brought China and Russia behind a call for her release, in what our correspondent has described as a rare show of international unity.

- Reuters / BBC

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