Thousands of people on Saturday took to the streets in Yangon, Myanmar’s largest city, to protest Monday’s military coup and demand the release of democratically-elected Aung San Suu Kyi.
The demonstrators reportedly chanted “Military dictator, fail, fail; Democracy, win, win,” as they marched through Yangon. Police with riot shields reportedly blocked the main roads into the city center, but there have been no reports of violence. Per Reuters, the atmosphere was festive, and the protesters reportedly gave police officers roses and bottles of water, asking them to join them, rather than support the military junta, which seized control from Suu Kyi.
Meanwhile, the military authorities have reportedly remained in the capital, Naypyitaw, and have not engaged with the protesters, but they do appear to have imposed a blockade on internet access. The monitoring group NetBlocks Internet Observtory reported a “national-scale internet blackout,” with connectivity falling to 16 percent of ordinary levels.
Social media sites, including Facebook, were already facing a temporary ban, but the more general internet restrictions will likely make it even more difficult for activists, who had resorted to sharing the locations on virtual private networks, to organize rallies.
International human rights groups, social media companies, and Myanmar’s civil society organizations have criticized the move. Telenor ASA, a Norweigan mobile network provider, said the authorities ordered all mobile operators to temporarily shut down the data network, and the company said while it had stressed access to telecom services should be maintained, it was bound by local law and had to prioritize the safety of local workers. Read more at Reuters and BBC. Tim O’Donnell