Anti-Coup Protests Draw Thousands in Myanmar Cities as Junta Cuts Internet, Mobile Connectivity — Radio Free Asia

Thousands of protesters took to the streets of Myanmar’s main cities Saturday, the sixth day of army rule, as the junta shut down web and mobile phone service traces in the nation of 54 million folks and rumors swirled about deposed chief Aung San Suu Kyi’s whereabouts.

In a transfer that rights teams warned would go away thousands and thousands weak to abuses and lower off from coronavirus pandemic information, the Ministry of Transport and Communications lower off all phone and web service, following the suspension of Facebook, Twitter and Instagram over the previous three days.

The clampdown on social media aimed to cease information that might “harm the steadiness of the state and undermine the curiosity of the folks,” a ministry directive issued Friday mentioned.

The on-line information outlet The Irrawaddy reported that elements of the France-sized nation began dropping web entry at 9 a.m. Saturday, whereas web connectivity fell from 54 p.c at 10 a.m. to 16 p.c by 2 p.m., whereas “online contact with the outside world was lost for most citizens by 11 a.m.”

The U.S. Embassy issued a discover to residents that “internet and cellular service, including mobile data, calling, and SMS, have been sporadic or unavailable most of the day” and outages might persist by the weekend. The consular discover warned residents that “potential for political violence and civil unrest remains.”

Ming Yu Hah, Amnesty International’s deputy regional director for campaigns, mentioned shutting down the web “amid a volatile coup, a humanitarian crisis and a health pandemic is a heinous and reckless decision.”

With Myanmar’s inhabitants “forced into a situation of abject uncertainty” because the Feb. 1 coup, she mentioned, “an expanded internet shutdown will put them at greater risk of more egregious human rights violations at the hands of the military.”

On Monday, the army dissolved parliament, declared a one-year state of emergency, and took over all branches of presidency, citing unproven allegations of voter fraud in nationwide elections final November.

Aung San Suu Kyi, 75 and set to begin a second five-year time period, was arrested in the cold coup together with different ruling get together leaders and cupboard ministers, and military chief Senior Gen. Min Aung Hlaing was put in as chief of a junta council of principally army officers with some civilians.

Protesters hold placards during a demonstration against the military coup in Yangon, Feb. 6, 2021. Credit: AFP
Protesters maintain placards throughout an illustration in opposition to the army coup in Yangon, Feb. 6, 2021. Credit: AFP

‘The human rights abuses have started’

In a tweet Saturday amid the faltering telecoms, the U.S. Embassy in Naypyidaw mentioned the mission backs “the right of the people of Myanmar to protest in support of the democratically elected government and their right to freely access information.”

We repeat our requires the army to relinquish energy, restore the democratically elected authorities, launch these detained, raise all telecommunications restrictions, and chorus from violence,” it mentioned.

Demanding the discharge of Aung San Suu Kyi and different detainees and calling on the military to respect her National League for Democracy get together’s landslide win in November 2020 elections, tens of hundreds of demonstrators rallied in Yangon, Mandalay, Naypyidaw and different cities throughout the nation, sources informed RFA.

As anger on the Sept. 1 coup constructed in a rustic that solely began to emerge from 5 a long time of army rule in 2011, protesters have turned to avenue demonstrations after nights of raucous ritual banging of pots and pans by coup opponents from their properties below COVID-19 restrictions or honking automotive horns to avenue protests.

Under tight coronavirus restrictions and curbs on information transmission, RFA realized {that a} peaceable anti-coup demonstration in the town of Mandalay began with 30 folks and reached tens of hundreds by Saturday afternoon, as residents joined parading protesters who had been shouting slogans in opposition to the army dictatorship and demanding the discharge of the detained leaders.

In Yangon, Myanmar’s largest metropolis, hundreds additionally rallied at outstanding Buddhist temples, and close to Yangon University, scene of 1988 protests in opposition to the cruel army junta that introduced Aung San Suu Kyi to nationwide prominence.

“Today’s protest was led by female factory workers and we are just coming to support them,” mentioned Thet Swe Win, civil rights activist who participated in Saturday protests in Yangon.

“We salute them. These people, they are real people … real people who believe in democracy and loved the democratic values,” he mentioned.

Thet Swe Win known as the web and mobile phone cutoff “a really bad thing.”

Over the previous few days, the human rights abuses have began. Soon there will likely be critical violations of human rights,” he mentioned.

Rumors stream

A pupil chief from the 1988 protests, Min Ko Naing, launched a video late Saturday urging folks to not consider rumors that he and different “88 Generation” leaders would lead an enormous rally at midday Sunday on the Hledan junction close to Yangon University, the place pro-democracy protests started 33 years earlier.

“I suspect that they (the authorities) really want us to come out on the streets. We truly don’t have such a plan at that place or time.”

“We are working harder to take the Civil Disobedience Movement up to a stage that all employees are boycotting work and the government operations will be halted. That is our aim,” he mentioned from an undisclosed location.

An anti-coup protest drew some 500 in the capital Naypyidaw, sources informed RFA’s Myanmar Service.

In the war-torn western state of Rakhine, about 100 military veterans and their households held a rally in help of the coup in the state capital Sittwe, sources informed RFA. The military has been at struggle in the state with the ethnic Arakan Army since late 2018.

Aung San Suu Kyi’s lawyer on Saturday evening denied rumors the 75-year-old Nobel laureate had been launched by the junta, calling them psychological warfare by the authorities.

“We think this is just a psywar released to confuse people who are very willing to accept this wishful thinking. It’s kind of an attempt by authorities to defuse the upcoming protest,” mentioned Khin Maung Zaw, who’s representing Aung San Suu Kyi and President Win Myint, who stay below home arrest.

“These are online rumors. They have not been released yet,” he mentioned.

Aung San Suu Kyi has been charged below Section 8 of the Import and Export Law with the possession of unlawful walkie-talkies, and President Win Myint below Section 25 of the Natural Disaster Prevention Law. 

Reported by RFA’s Myanmar Service. Translated by Kyaw Min Htun. Written in English by Paul Eckert.

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