UPDATE – Myanmar shuts down internet amid anti-coup protests


By Sorwar Alam

ANKARA (AA) – Myanmar's military junta shut down internet services across the country amid anti-coup protests, a mobile service provider confirmed on Saturday.

"The Myanmar Ministry of Transport and Communications (MoTC) has directed all mobile operators to temporarily shut down the data network in Myanmar. Voice and SMS services remain open," said Norwegian telecom giant Telenor that operates the second-largest mobile network in Myanmar.

In its order, the ministry cited "legal basis in Myanmar's Telecommunication Law, and references circulation of fake news, the stability of the nation and interest of the public as a basis for the order," the operator said in a statement.

The move came after the authority blocked social media platforms, including Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, following a bloodless military coup against Aung San Suu Kyi's elected government, who ran the country as a state counselor since 2016.

The military arrested her and many of her party officials after the coup on Monday.

The Telecom group express "deep concern" and emphasized to the authorities that "access to telecom services should be maintained at all times, especially during times of conflict, to ensure people's basic right to freedom of expression and access to information."

"We deeply regret the impact the shutdown has on the people in Myanmar," it added.

Meanwhile, Anadolu Agency's freelance reporter Kyaw Ye Lynn, in Yangon, confirmed over the phone that there is no internet access in the country's largest city.

"Before the shutdown of internet in my area, I have received reports of internet shutdown in several other areas too," he said.

According to an Australia-based Monash IT Observatory group, a significant drop in internet connectivity was observed in several cities, including Yangon, Mandalay, Kachin, Magway, Bago, Kayah, and Mon, since 7:00 a.m. local time (0030GMT).

"Protests erupted in three different localities in Yangon, with police blocking a rally led by industrial workers," the freelancer said.

The biggest rally in the city was held at the University of Yangon where thousands of protesters gathered against the coup, Kyaw Ye Lynn reported from the scene.

"Drivers of passer by vehicles honk their car horns in support of the protest, with protesters chanting slogans against the military's move."

Following hours of protests, they started to disperse peacefully as the organizers announced to gather again on Sunday at 9:00 a.m. local time (0230GMT).

The mass rally was staged days after Suu Kyi urged people "not to accept the coup" and "resist it resoundingly", via a statement released by her party.

Healthcare workers at government hospitals were at the forefront of the non-violent resistance, with some on strike and others registering their protest while continuing to tend to patients since Wednesday.

In 1988 and 2007, mass public movement against the military dictatorships were violently crushed by the country’s powerful army.

In a post on Twitter, the Telenor Myanmar, offers free calls among its subscribers at the weekend.

"To help you stay connected at this time, Telenor-to-Telenor local calls and SMS are free of charge this weekend. Stay safe," it added.