Myanmar Update: Second day of protests attract thousands to Yangon

Myanmar Update: Second day of protests attract thousands to Yangon
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Tens of thousands attended the second day of protests against the military coup in the city of Yangon in Myanmar.

A day after the military blocked social media sites and cut off internet access, thousands went to Yangon to attend the second day of protests against the military coup that took power in Myanmar.

Yangon protests

Crowds of protesters in Yangon shouted “We don’t want military dictatorship.” Many of the people wore red, the color of the ruling National League for Democracy Party (NLD), and held pictures of detained leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

Suu Kyi has not been seen since the military staged the coup last week and detained NLD leaders.

Some participants in the protests on Sunday held red balloons, while cars and buses slowed down to sound their horns in support of the demonstrations. Many of the people gestured the three-finger salute, which has become a symbol of defiance against authoritarianism in the region.

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One banner read “Respect our vote,” referring to the landslide win of the NLD in the November election. The demonstrators marched towards the Sule Pagoda in the city center while police vehicles and officers in riot gear awaited near Yangon University.

Although the military authorities in Myanmar are known for their violent repression tactics, they have yet to stop the protests.

According to the monitoring group NetBlocks Internet Observatory, internet connection returned to about 50% in the afternoon but it remains uncertain whether it would be sustained. Social media platforms are still blocked.

The previous internet shutdown was criticized by various human rights groups. Amnesty International called the blackout “heinous and reckless” and warned that it could put people at risk of human rights violations.

Meanwhile, United Nations special rapporteur on Myanmar Tom Andrews said: “The generals are now attempting to paralyse the citizen movement of resistance – and keep the outside world in the dark – by cutting virtually all internet access.”

Military takeover, social media block

The military took control of Myanmar in a coup on Monday and declared a state of emergency following the detention of NLD leaders, including Suu Kyi.

On Monday morning, people in Myanmar woke up to widespread internet and communications blackouts, closed banks, and military patrols in the city of Yangon. TV channels were seemingly blocked, with the military-owned Myawaddy TV channel the only one accessible to residents.

A news anchor on the TV channel announced that control of the entire country has been transferred to army chief Min Aung Hlaing. The military confirmed that it has detained Suu Kyi and other high ranking NLD leaders due to alleged voting irregularities in November’s election.

The military leaders blocked access to Facebook on Thursday and said it is for the sake of “stability” in the country. The following day, it also blocked social media platforms Twitter and Instagram.

Norwegian company Telenor confirmed that the Myanmar Ministry of Transport and Communications ordered the country’s mobile networks and internet service providers to block access to Twitter and Instagram.

In a statement, Telenor said: “While the directive has legal basis in Myanmar’s telecommunications law, Telenor Myanmar has challenged the necessity and proportionality of the directive… and highlighted the directive’s contradiction with international human rights law.”

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