Myanmar’s major telecommunications companies began blocking access to Facebook in the country on Thursday (4) following orders from the military that seized power after a coup against the civilian government.
According to a letter from the Ministry of Communication and Information made public, the platform, as well as Messenger, Instagram and WhatsApp, should remain blocked at least until next Sunday (7) for the sake of “stability”.
“Currently, people who disrupt the stability of the country are spreading false news and disinformation and causing misunderstanding among people using Facebook,” argued the file, one of 24 whose ministers have been exonerated and replaced by the military.
At least two companies, the state-owned MPT and the Norwegian company Telenor Asa, have confirmed the disruption of social media access determined by the regime. The military has also announced that it will block VPN services, private internet providers that can help circumvent bans.
Telenor has expressed “great concern” about the military order which the company said was sent to all mobile operators and Internet service providers on Wednesday (3).
Telenor customers who attempt to access blocked websites and applications will be directed to a page indicating that the ban is due to a decision by authorities.
“Although the directive is legally based on Myanmar law, Telenor does not believe the request is based on necessity and proportionality, in accordance with international human rights law,” the company said.
Andy Stone, a Facebook spokesperson, urged the country’s authorities to “restore connectivity so that people in Myanmar can communicate with their families and friends and access important information.”
Mark Zuckerberg’s company said it was treating the situation in Myanmar as an emergency and taking temporary measures to protect itself from danger, such as removing content praising or supporting the military coup.
Social media, in which engagement in civil disobedience campaigns grows, has been the main channel of opposition to the coup in the country which has a history of backlash to street protests. In 1988, thousands of unarmed demonstrators were killed by the armed forces in the crackdown on groups calling for an end to military rule.
On Thursday, however, the country’s two largest cities were scenes of small protests against the military. In Rangoon, a group of just over ten people protested and quickly dispersed.
In Mandalay, around 20 people used placards to demand the release of the country’s civilian leaders. The act was posted on Facebook, which is still accessible in some regions. At least three people were arrested, according to activist groups.
Before Thursday, protests had been limited to panos and horns and the strike movement of health professionals in more than 70 hospitals and medical services in 30 cities.
In response, the military announced Thursday that people could be treated in military hospitals, although strikers have not refused to respond to emergencies.
Many of those who are still active used red ribbons on their uniforms to mark their opposition to military rule using the color of the National League for Democracy (NLD), a party which won a landslide victory over the party backed by the army during the November elections.
Civilian leaders held by the military include Nobel Peace Laureate and State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi and President Win Myint. The charges against the two were formalized on Wednesday (3).
Suu Kyi, who spent 15 years under house arrest between 1989 and 2010, faces another three years in prison for illegally importing and using six walkie-talkies – a charge considered obscure by the international community.
Myint, meanwhile, has been indicted for crimes against the Disaster Management Act over an alleged violation of protocols to combat the spread of the coronavirus. With 53 million people, Myanmar has recorded just over 140,000 cases and 3,160 deaths from Covid-19, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.
The LND, the councilor and president’s party, won 83% of the vote and won 396 of the 476 seats in Myanmar’s parliament. However, the military claim that there was fraud in the elections and that for this reason they took control of the country. The regime claims that power will be transferred after “the holding of free and fair elections”.
On Wednesday (3), the chief of the armed forces, General Min Aung Hlaing, who now heads the country, told a group of businessmen that, to coordinate the new election, he could stay in power for six months. after the end of a state of emergency of the year.
“The army had to take command for several reasons, but it will not go beyond the democratic path,” he told the army-aligned People Media newspaper.
Also on Wednesday, a dozen parliamentarians elected on November 8 held a symbolic meeting in the premises where they have been housed since the seizure of power, which took place on the very day of the first meeting of the new legislature.
The coup has been severely criticized by the international community. Political leaders of different nationalities have called for the restoration of the democratically elected government and the release of all civilian prisoners.
UN Secretary General António Guterres on Wednesday promised to mobilize international pressure and “make sure that this coup fails.” The organization’s Security Council, whose permanent members are the United States, Russia, France, the United Kingdom and China, is trying to negotiate a declaration on the crisis.
“We will do our utmost to mobilize all key players and the international community to put enough pressure on Myanmar to ensure that this coup fails,” Guterres said in an interview with the Washington Post. .
The US government determined on Tuesday (2) that it viewed Myanmar’s seizure of power as a coup, which in practice involves restrictions on the aid the United States provides to the country.
The Brazilian Foreign Ministry, meanwhile, does not mention a military coup and does not address political prisoners in a note published on the subject.
Chronology of Myanmar’s political history
1948: Former British colony, Myanmar becomes an independent country 1962: General Ne Win abolishes the Constitution of 1947 and establishes a military regime 1974: Beginning of the first post-independence constitution 1988: The violent repression of demonstrations against the military regime generates international critics 1990: National League for Democracy (LND), in opposition to the regime, wins the first multiparty election in 30 years and is prevented from coming to power 1991: Aung San Suu Kyi, of the LND, wins the Nobel Prize in peace 1997: US and EU impose sanctions on Myanmar for human rights violations and disrespect for 2008 election results: Assembly approves new Constitution 2011: Thein Sein, retired general, is elected president and the military regime is dissolved 2015: The LND obtains the majority in both houses of Parliament 2016: Htin Kyaw is elected the first civilian president since 1962 coup and Suu Kyi assumes the post of State Councilor, equivalent to that of Prime Minister 2018: Kyaw resigns and Win Myi nt assumes the 2020 presidency: in the legislative elections, the LND receives 83% of the vote and defeats pro-military party 2021: army alleges election fraud, arrests LND leaders, seizes power with new coup