Myanmar cuts Facebook access as military tightens grip following coup

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Internet and news services continued to be disrupted across Myanmar on Thursday, as the country’s military sought to secure their grip on power after deposing the democratically-elected government earlier this week.

Aung San Suu Kyi, the country’s de facto leader, along with President Win Myint and dozens of other senior figures in their National League for Democracy (NLD) were detained in pre-dawn raids Monday. Hours later, the military declared that power had been handed to commander in chief Min Aung Hlaing, in response to unfounded allegations of election fraud. A state of emergency was declared for one year.
Late Wednesday, an arrest warrant was issued for Suu Kyi over unspecified “import and export” offenses, while Win Myint was remanded in custody under the country’s Disaster Management Law, according to an NLD spokesman.
While the dramatic overthrow of Suu Kyi’s government attracted international attention, continued disruptions to internet access and communications mean that many in Myanmar may still be unclear about what is taking place.
Facebook, by far the largest online platform in the country, confirmed to CNN that its services were “currently disrupted for some people” as of Thursday morning, as independent monitors recorded widespread filtering of Facebook, WhatsApp and other platforms, even as basic internet access was returning in some areas.
Limited access to news and internet could affect the ability of people to get information or organize any response via social media. At one point on Monday, the only operational TV channel was the Myanmar military-owned television network Myawaddy TV. By Wednesday, some channels, such as DVB TV, were still off the air.
Speaking Wednesday, US State Department spokesman Ned Price said Washington was “disturbed” by reports of an arrest warrant being issued for Suu Kyi.
“We call on the military to immediately release … all detained civilian and political leaders, journalists, and detained human rights activists and to restore the democratically elected government to power,” Price said, adding that President Joe Biden viewed the military’s actions as a “direct assault on the country’s transition to democracy and the rule of law.”
Military in control
For more than 50 years, Myanmar — also known as Burma — was run by successive isolationist military regimes that plunged the country into poverty and brutally stifled any dissent. Thousands of critics, activists, journalists, academics and artists were routinely jailed and tortured during that time.
Suu Kyi shot to international prominence during her decades-long struggle against military rule. When her party, the NLD, won a landslide in elections in 2015 and formed the first civilian government, many pro-democracy supporters hoped it would mark a break from the military rule of the past and offer hope that Myanmar would continue to reform.
The NLD was widely reported to have won another decisive victory in a November 2020 general election, giving it another five years in power and dashing hopes for some military figures that an opposition party they had backed might take power democratically.
The sudden seizure of power came as the new parliament was due to open and after months of increasing friction between the civilian government and the powerful military, known as the Tatmadaw, over alleged election irregularities. The country’s election commission has repeatedly denied mass voter fraud took place.
Hundreds of NLD lawmakers were detained in the capital Naypyitaw Monday, where they had traveled to take up their seats. The junta has since removed 24 ministers and deputies from government and named 11 of its own allies as replacements who will assume their roles in a new administration.
Analysts have suggested the coup was more likely to do with the military attempting to reassert its power and the personal ambition of army chief Min Aung Hlaing, who was set to step down this year, rather than serious claims of voter fraud.
“Facing mandatory retirement in a few months, with no route to a civilian leadership role, and amid global calls for him to face criminal charges in The Hague, he was cornered,” Jared Genser, an international human rights lawyer who previously served as pro bono counsel to Suu Kyi, wrote for CNN this week.
Aung San Suu Kyi poses for a portrait in Yangon, Myanmar, in 2010. A month earlier, she had been released from house arrest.
Suu Kyi, front center, is seen with her parents and her two elder brothers in 1947. Her father, Aung San, was the commander of the Burma Independence Army and helped negotiate the country's independence from Britain. He was assassinated on July 19, 1947. Suu Kyi's mother, Ma Khin Kyi, was a diplomat who was once an ambassador to India.
Suu Kyi poses with Burmese comedian Par Par Lay, who was part of the pro-democracy act "The Moustache Brothers." Suu Kyi grew up in Myanmar and India but moved to England in the 1960s, where she studied at Oxford University. She returned to Myanmar in 1988 and co-founded the National League for Democracy, a political party dedicated to nonviolence and civil disobedience.
Suu Kyi sprinkles water over the heads of her followers during a traditional new year ceremony in Yangon in 1989. Five days of celebrations were marked by anti-government protests closely watched by armed troops.
Suu Kyi poses for a photo in June 1989.
Suu Kyi addresses a crowd of supporters in Yangon in July 1989. About two weeks later, she was placed under house arrest and charged with trying to divide the military. She denied the charges.
While under house arrest, Suu Kyi won the Nobel Peace Price in 1991. She was honored "for her non-violent struggle for democracy and human rights."
Suu Kyi speaks to hundreds of supporters from the gate at her residential compound in Yangon in 1995. She had just been released from house arrest, but her political activity was restricted.
Suu Kyi addresses supporters in 1997, on the 49th anniversary of Myanmar's independence movement.
Suu Kyi, in a 1999 home video, gives her support to economic sanctions against her country as a means to affect the governing military.
Suu Kyi poses in front of a portrait of her father in 1999. In 2000, she was once again placed under house arrest.
An activist holds a Suu Kyi portrait during a protest at the Chinese Embassy in Bangkok, Thailand, in 2009. The protesters were calling on the Chinese government to impose sanctions on Myanmar's military government following a Suu Kyi trial.
Suu Kyi speaks in Yangon in December 2010, a month after being released from house arrest. She had spent 15 of the previous 21 years under house arrest.
Suu Kyi is held by her son Kim Aris as she is greeted by supporters during a visit to the ancient temple city of Bagan in 2011.
Suu Kyi meets US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton at Suu Kyi's residence in Yangon in 2011.
Suu Kyi greets crowds while campaigning in Pathein, Myanmar, in 2012. She was running for a seat in parliament.
Suu Kyi makes her way through a crowd in 2012, a day after she won a seat in parliament. It was Myanmar's first multiparty elections since 1990.
Suu Kyi accepts the Ambassador of Conscience Award next to U2 singer Bono during a European tour in 2012.
Suu Kyi is presented with the Congressional Gold Medal while visiting the US Capitol in 2012.
Suu Kyi meets with US President Barack Obama in the White House Oval Office. Obama later visited her lakeside villa in Myanmar. It was the first visit to Myanmar by a sitting US president.
Suu Kyi joins officer cadets for tea while visiting a military academy in Camberley, England, in 2013.
Suu Kyi speaks during a Nobel lecture in Oslo, Norway, in 2015. She was finally able to receive the Nobel Peace Prize that she won while she was under house arrest in 1991.
Suu Kyi descends from a stage decorated with a portrait of her late father during a campaign rally in 2015.
Suu Kyi campaigns in Kawhmu, Myanmar, in 2015.
Suu Kyi arrives at a polling station to cast her vote in 2015. Her party won a historic majority in the nation's first freely held parliamentary elections. Suu Kyi was not able to become president, however, because of a constitutional amendment that prohibits anyone with foreign relatives from becoming the nation's leader. She was later named state counselor, a role created especially for her.
Suu Kyi and members of parliament take their positions during the presidential vote in Naypyidaw, Myanmar, in 2016. Htin Kyaw, Suu Kyi's longtime aide, was voted as president.
Suu Kyi walks with Gen. Min Aung Hlaing, the country's military leader, at the Naypyidaw city airport in 2016.
Suu Kyi and President Kyaw talk at a conference in Naypyidaw in 2016.
Suu Kyi addresses the United Nations General Assembly in New York in 2016.
Supporters rush to greet Suu Kyi in Washington, DC, after she met with US Secretary of State John Kerry in 2016.
Suu Kyi is guided by National Park Service Ranger Heath Mitchell on her visit to Washington, DC, in 2016.
Suu Kyi met with Pope Francis at the Vatican in 2017.
Britain's Queen Elizabeth II greets Suu Kyi ahead of a private lunch at Buckingham Palace in 2017.
US Vice President Mike Pence meets with Suu Kyi on the sidelines of the ASEAN summit in Singapore in 2018.
Suu Kyi stands before the UN's International Court of Justice in 2019. The nation of Gambia filed a lawsuit in the world court <a href="https://www.cnn.com/2019/12/13/asia/rohingya-suu-kyi-myanmar-hague-intl-hnk/index.html" target="_blank">alleging that Myanmar committed "genocidal acts"</a> against Myanmar's Rohingya Muslims. Suu Kyi has repeatedly denied such charges, siding with the military and labeling the accusations as "misinformation."
Suu Kyi casts her ballot during advance voting in 2020.
Suu Kyi watches the vaccination of health workers at a hospital in Naypyidaw in January 2021. A few days later, the military detained her in a coup.

Protests and strikes

So far, resistance to the coup has been relatively limited, both in part due to communications difficulties, and long memories of previous brutal crackdowns by the military, while ruled the country with an iron-grip for so long.
Doctors have pledged to go on strike, despite the coronavirus pandemic which is still dogging Myanmar, and there have been scattered calls for protests and work stoppages issued online, some in the name of the NLD.
Assistant Doctors at Yangon General Hospital released a statement pledging their participation in the “civil disobedience movement,” saying they will not work under a military led government and called for Suu Kyi’s release.
Video showed medical workers in Yangon outside the hospital Wednesday dressed in their scrubs and protective gear, while wearing red ribbons.
Myanmar’s Ministry of Information warned the media and public Tuesday not to spread rumors on social media or incite unrest, urging people to cooperate with the government following Monday’s coup.
“Some media and public are spreading rumors on social media conducting gatherings to incite rowdiness and issuing statements which can cause unrest,” the statement read. “We would like to urge the public not to carry out these acts and would like to notify the public to cooperate with the government in accordance with the existing laws.”
Fear of the military could be a powerful preventative against concerted action.
“When the military was last in charge, political prisoners like me were rounded up, sent to prison for decades, (put in) solitary confinement and tortured. We are concerned that if this state of emergency is not reversed, similar things will happen again,” said Bo Kyi, co-founder of the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners, and a former detainee himself.
“There is a fear that the military could continue persecuting officials, activists and crack down on ordinary people. But we have hope that Burma can return on its democratic path.”
Source : CNN News