Myanmar junta cuts off internet, deploys tanks as soldiers fire at protesters

Pablo Tucker
February 15, 2021

Over the weekend the military continued to escalate its crackdown on dissent, with security forces in the country's northern Kachin state firing on protesters at a power plant Sunday, after a crowd had gathered there believing the military would cut off the electricity, according to social media video and local reports.

As well as the mass protests across Myanmar, the country's military rulers were faced with a strike by government workers, part of a civil disobedience movement to protest the coup.

Demonstrators took to the streets in the largest city of Yangon for the 10th straight day on Monday, the day the court-approved detention period for Aung San Suu Kyi is due to expire.

United Nations special rapporteur Tom Andrews said the junta efforts to rein in the country's burgeoning protest movement was a sign of "desperation" and amounted to a declaration of war against its own people.

An armoured vehicle and about six trucks carrying soldiers were parked nearby, a witness said.

One student who managed to escape told reporters that the pupils - thought to range in age from 13 to 16 - were demonstrating peacefully when a line of riot police suddenly arrived and began arresting them.

But the monitor noted that most users in Myanmar were still barred from social media.

Tens of thousands of demonstrators have filled the streets of Myanmar's biggest cities in defiance of a strict curfew and a ban on gatherings of more than four people, holding signs with pro-democracy slogans, many of them with pictures of Suu Kyi.

Both are expected to be questioned on Tuesday and Wednesday, said lawyer Khin Maung Zaw outside a court in Naypyidaw, Myanmar's capital, after a meeting with a judge.

Two days after the putsch, the 75-year-old Nobel laureate was hit with the unusual charge of violating Myanmar's import and export law, after a search of her house found walkie-talkies.

There was no immediate confirmation of a death toll and no comment from the government. Shortly after midnight, residents reported an internet outage until about 9 am, when connections were restored.

Frontier Myanmar, a leading local news and business magazine, said on its official Twitter handle earlier today that the junta has levelled charges against the private media since the coup, further stating in a letter that journalists those who refused to comply with the orders could face criminal charges, and publications could have their licenses revoked.

More than 350 political and state officials, activists and civil society members, including journalists and monks, have been arrested since February 1 coup, the United Nations Human Rights Council said Friday.

"In this most delicate moment, the Holy See wishes to assure once again its spiritual closeness, prayer and solidarity with the people of Myanmar", Archbishop Ivan Jurkovic, the Holy See's permanent observer to the UN Human Rights Council, said on February 12.

With protestors refusing to back down, the generals imposed an internet shutdown on Monday and ratcheted up the military's presence across the country.

"These are signs of desperation".

"Attention generals: You WILL be held accountable", he tweeted.

The amendments to the penal code, posted on a military website, include a 20-year prison term for inciting hatred of the government or military or hindering the security forces preserving state stability. The electoral commission dismissed accusations of fraud.

Spreading fear, fake news or agitating against government employees gets three years.

In the latest sign of disruption by workers, the Department of Civil Aviation said many staff had stopped going to work since February 8, causing delays to worldwide flights.

Some trains have also stopped running, media reported.

Pope Francis has expressed his solidarity with the people of Myanmar and called for the release of detained leaders including Suu Kyi. The junta has stepped up its crackdown on civil servants, lawyers, and other professionals.

Other reports by iNewsToday