Myanmar’s military junta has extended the internet shutdown, further stifling access to information in the country, where hundreds of people have died and disappeared after a coup in February.
On Thursday night, before the new restrictions, people were quick to share links to radio channels and communication applications that work offline. In the streets, protesters held a vigil, using candles to spell out the words “We will never give up.”
Internet access had already been severely restricted by the board. Mobile data, which is the main source of Internet access, has been cut for 18 days across the country, while a broader shutdown has been imposed every night for nearly 50 days. The new cuts affect wireless broadband, although fiber services still appear to be working.
On Thursday, the UN Security Council “expressed deep concern about the rapidly deteriorating situation” in Myanmar. In a statement, it said it “strongly condemned the use of violence against peaceful protesters and the deaths of hundreds of civilians, including women and children.”
At least 535 people have been killed by the military since the coup, according to the Association of Political Prisoners (AAPP), while more than 2,500 people have been detained. The advocacy group has not been able to confirm the location of the vast majority of the recent detainees.
“The military junta’s widespread use of arbitrary detentions and enforced disappearances appears designed to strike fear into the hearts of anti-coup protesters,” said Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch.
On Thursday, before the imposition of new Internet restrictions, protesters called for a “flower strike” at bus stops where protesters killed by security forces had departed on their last trips. “We will leave flowers at the bus stops tomorrow … That’s what I want to tell you before the internet goes down,” Khin Sadar, leader of the protest, posted on Facebook.
At the protesters earlier in the day, deaths spiked further. According to AFP reports, a 31-year-old protester was shot dead and 10 others injured in Monywa, central Myanmar, while one person was also killed and six injured in Mandalay.
British Foreign Minister Dominic Raab accused the military of “the wanton killing of innocent people, including children”, by announcing sanctions against one of the largest military conglomerates, the Myanmar Economic Corporation (MEC). The UK also said it would contribute $ 700,000 to the UN security council’s efforts to document grave human rights violations in Myanmar.
The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies has called for greater protection for medical workers, warning that Myanmar Red Cross first responders have been “unjustly arrested, intimidated or injured” and that property and Red Cross ambulances have been damaged.
“This is unacceptable. Health workers should never be a target. Unrestricted humanitarian access should be granted to people in need,” said Alexander Matheou, International Federation Asia Pacific regional director.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism