Protests in Myanmar grow – Twitter blocked

Four days after the military coup in Myanmar, protests against the army leadership are growing in the Southeast Asian country. Hundreds of university professors and students took to the streets in the economic metropolis of Rangoon on Friday against the arrest of a close confidante of the de facto head of government Aung San Suu Kyi, who is under house arrest. In order to prevent further protests, the authorities restricted access to online communication platforms such as Facebook and Twitter.

Despite the enormous military presence, there were demonstrations in several cities in Myanmar. Around 200 lecturers and students from Dagon University in Yangon (Rangoon) took to the streets. As a sign of protest, they showed the three-finger salute – a symbol of the pro-democratic protest movement in neighboring Thailand.

“We have to oppose this dictatorship,” said lecturer Win Win Maw of the AFP. “If all officials participate in this movement, it is not easy to maintain this system of government.” The students chanted “Long Live Mother Suu” and carried red flags, the color of Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD) party.

It was previously announced that Suu Kyi’s close confidante Win Htein was arrested. According to his spokesman, the 79-year-old was taken to a police station in the capital, Naypyidaw. Win Htein is considered Suu Kyi’s right-hand man.

Before his arrest, Win Htein had accused the armed forces in interviews with English-language media of “leading the Southeast Asian country in the wrong direction” with the coup. He called on the citizens to resist the “destruction of our government”.

There were also rallies in Naypyidaw. There dozens of employees from various ministries posed with red ribbons for group photos. According to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (AAPP), more than 130 officials and MPs have so far been arrested.

Police in Mandalay, Myanmar’s second largest city, arrested more than 20 people for beating pots and pans in protest against the army leadership. They were sentenced to seven days in prison on Friday for violating the public order disturbance law.

The army leadership seized power with a coup on Monday and deposed the civilian government. Myanmar’s Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Suu Kyi and the country’s President Win Myint were arrested. The military declared a year-long state of emergency after which new elections are to take place.

NLD spokesman Kyi Toe told AFP on Friday that, to the best of his knowledge, Suu Kyi was still under house arrest. The 75-year-old is in “good health”. Suu Kyi’s lawyer, Khin Maung Zaw, told journalists that he had not had any contact with his client since the coup. Also with the also deposed President Win Myint so far no conversation has been possible, said Khin Maung Zaw on Friday before reporters in the capital Naypyidaw. He demands the unconditional release. Both politicians are under house arrest and, according to the lawyer, investigations are ongoing.

The army justifies its actions with alleged manipulation in the parliamentary election in November, which Suu Kyi’s party had won. Governments around the world condemned the coup and demanded the release of the arrested politicians. The coup ended a decade of democratic change after the state had been ruled by a military junta for nearly five decades.

To nip the protest in the bud, the military ordered the country’s telecommunications providers to cut access to Facebook – the main means of communication used by millions of Myanmares. As the platform Netblocks announced, access to Twitter was also restricted late on Friday evening (local time). According to some Internet users, the blockage could not be bypassed by using VPN services. According to Netblocks, there were also problems with the Whatsapp messenger service and the Instagram photo platform.

A document allegedly released by the Ministry of Transport said Twitter and Instagram were used to “incite people and spread fake news.” “In the interests of public security and stability in the country”, both services would be blocked until further notice. AFP was able to see the document, but initially was unable to verify its authenticity.

Quelle: What / Afp / Reuters

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