Monday, April 19

Myanmar cuts wireless internet service amid coup protests

Myanmar’s wireless broadband internet services were shut down on Friday by order of the army, a local provider said, as protesters continued to defy the threat of deadly violence to oppose the junta’s inauguration.

A directive from the Ministry of Transport and Communications on Thursday instructed that “all wireless broadband data services be temporarily suspended until further notice,” according to a statement posted online by local provider Ooredoo.

Fiber-based landline Internet connections still worked, albeit at drastically reduced speeds.

Also on Friday, New York-based Human Rights Watch issued a report saying that the Myanmar military has forcibly disappeared hundreds of people, including politicians, election officials, journalists, activists and protesters and refused. to confirm their location or allow access to lawyers or family members. members in violation of international law.

“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 of Human Rights Watch.

“Concerned governments must demand the release of all missing persons and impose specific economic sanctions against the leaders of the junta to finally hold this abusive army to account.

The crisis in the Southeast Asian nation has expanded dramatically in the last week, both in the number of protesters killed and with military airstrikes against the guerrilla forces of the Karen ethnic minority in their homeland along the border with Thailand. .

In Karen-controlled areas, more than a dozen civilians have died since Saturday and more than 20,000 have been displaced, according to Free Burma Rangers, an aid agency operating in the area.

About 3,000 Karen fled to Thailand, but many returned in unclear circumstances. Thai authorities said they returned voluntarily, but aid groups say they are not safe and many are hiding in the jungle and in caves on the Myanmar side of the border.

The UN Human Rights Office for Southeast Asia called on countries in the region to “protect all people fleeing violence and persecution in the country” and “ensure that refugees and undocumented migrants are not returned. by force, “UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric told reporters at UN headquarters in New York.

The UN Security Council strongly condemned the use of violence against peaceful protesters late Thursday.

The press release was unanimous but weaker than a draft that would have expressed its “willingness to consider additional steps,” which could include sanctions.

China and Russia, both permanent members of the Council and both arms suppliers to the Myanmar military, have generally opposed the sanctions.

The statement came after the UN special envoy for Myanmar warned that the country faces the possibility of civil war and urged that meaningful action be taken or risk becoming a failed state.

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