Myanmar protesters take to streets as internet shuts down
A wave of demonstrators took to the streets in Myanmar Saturday to protest a military coup there that has drawn international condemnation.
The military shut down the internet in Myanmar as thousands of people protested in Yangon against this week’s coup https://t.co/MMqUxt3flE pic.twitter.com/rpfHMVGRpw
— Reuters (@Reuters) February 6, 2021
A crowd that reportedly swelled into the thousands to denounce the takeover and demand the release of Aung San Suu Kyi, the leader of Myanmar’s nascent democratic government. The protest took place even amid a widescale internet blackout enacted by the military junta.
Update: A near-total internet shutdown is now in effect in #Myanmar.
Network data show a collapse of connectivity to 16% of ordinary levels from ~2 pm local time
The information blackout is likely to severely limit coverage of anti-coup protests
— NetBlocks (@netblocks) February 6, 2021
Several protesters were seen wearing red, the color of Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy, which won a landslide victory in Nov. 8 elections that the military has claimed was rife with fraud.
No international observers have backed that allegation, and many have called for Suu Kyi’s release from detention.
While mainstream social media sites like Facebook were taken down in the country, the demonstrators are believed to have leaned on virtual private networks to organize the protest and hide their locations. However, the broad internet blackout is expected to curtail their ability to stage further gatherings.
The public push against the coup will likely raise the pressure on international leaders – including President Biden – to act on the Myanmar crisis.
Biden swiftly denounced the military takeover and arrest of democratically-elected government officials, and the State Department this week announced it formally viewed the crisis as a coup, triggering certain sanctions and a review of U.S. assistance to the country.
However, experts say Biden may be wary of pressuring the military there too much out of fear of pushing it further into China’s arms. Suu Kyi, a Nobel laureate, has also seen her international standing tarnished over her tacit support for the military’s brutal crackdown on the Rohingya Muslim minority in the country, which some have panned as a genocide.
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