Friday, April 16, 2021

Myanmar junta limits internet, seizes satellite TV dishes

Myanmar 3
Anti-coup protesters walk through a market with images of ousted Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi at Kamayut township in Yangon, Myanmar Thursday, April 8, 2021. They walked through the markets and streets of Kamayut township with slogans to show their disaffection for military coup. (AP Photo)

Yangon, April 8: An information blackout under Myanmar’s military junta worsened Thursday as fiber broadband service, the last legal way for ordinary people to access the internet, became intermittently inaccessible on several networks.
Authorities in some areas have also begun confiscating satellite dishes used to access international news broadcasts.

Protests against the the Feb. 1 coup that ousted the elected government of Aung San Suu Kyi continued Thursday despite the killing of 11 people by security forces a day earlier.
It was unclear if the internet interruptions for at least two service providers, MBT and Infinite Networks, were temporary. MBT said its service was halted by a break in the line between Yangon and Mandalay, the country’s two biggest cities, but internet users had been complaining for the past week of major slowdowns in the services.
The junta has gradually throttled internet service since the coup. It initially imposed a largely ineffective block of social media such as Facebook and then cut mobile data service, the most common way of connecting to the internet, but only at night. As the junta increased its use of deadly force against protesters it also imposed a total ban on mobile data use.
At least 598 protesters and bystanders have been killed by security forces since the takeover, according to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners, which monitors casualties and arrests.
The use of satellite television as a source of information also appeared to be under threat. In Laputta and other towns in the Irrawaddy Delta southwest of Yangon, local government vehicles announced over loudspeakers that it was no longer legal to use satellite dishes and they must be turned in at police stations. Police also raided shops selling the dishes and confiscated them.
Online news services Khit Thit Media and Mizzima said similar measures were taken in Mon state in the country’s southeast. Satellite TV offers access to international sources of news about Myanmar.
Since the coup, all non state-owned daily newspapers have stopped publishing and online news sites have come under severe pressure.
Five popular independent news services had their operating licenses revoked in early March and were told to stop publishing and broadcasting on all platforms, but mostly defied the orders. Other agencies have been sued over their coverage.
About 30 journalists arrested since the coup remain detained. Roughly half of them have been charged with violating a law covering circulation of information that could hurt national security or disturb public order. The offense is punishable by up to three years in prison.
In an open letter on Tuesday to Myanmar’s military government, the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists called for the immediate and unconditional release of all journalists detained in the aftermath of your February 1 suspension of democracy and imposition of emergency rule.
The group said that since the military’s takeover, press freedom conditions have rapidly and drastically deteriorated in your country. News reports indicate journalists have been beaten, shot and injured by live bullets and arbitrarily arrested and charged by security forces while merely doing their jobs of covering the demonstrations and your regime’s retaliatory clampdown.
Thursday’s protests included ones in Launglone township, in the south of the country, where villagers sang songs and lit candles before dawn and then marched down rural roads, and in the city of Dawei, also in the south, where engineers, teachers, students and others joined in their latest demonstration.
Despite eight killings in Dawei by security forces, opponents of the junta have continued to protest on the streets, avoiding confrontations by varying the starting times and breaking into smaller groups.
On Wednesday, security forces stormed the town of Kalay in northwestern Myanmar where some residents had used homemade hunting rifles to form a self-defense force. Security forces killed at least 11 civilians and injured many others, local news reports said.
The state-owned Global New Light of Myanmar newspaper reported Thursday that 18 people described as rioters with homemade weapons had been arrested but said nothing about civilian casualties.
UK condemns bullying’ as Myanmar ambassador locked out of embassy
The UK government on Thursday condemned the bullying actions of the Myanmar military junta after the country’s ambassador, Kyaw Zwar Minn, was refused entry to his own embassy in London and had to spend the night in his car.
Zwar Minn has been critical of the junta’s coup in Myanmar, which have sparked widespread protests and clashes in the region since February, and called for Myanmar’s ousted leader Aung San Suu Kyi to be released.
He was forced to spend Wednesday night in his car after he was dismissed as the country’s representative and staff were asked to leave the building by Myanmar’s military attache.
We condemn the bullying actions of the Myanmar military regime in London yesterday, and I pay tribute to Kyaw Zwar Minn for his courage, said UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab.
The UK continues to call for an end to the coup and the appalling violence, and a swift restoration of democracy, he said.
Police were reportedly called to stop staff re-entering the building and protesters gathered outside after news spread that the ambassador had been locked out.
The UK Foreign Office has received notification that it “must accept the decision taken by the Myanmar government”.
Myanmar’s military seized power on February 1 after overthrowing the government and declared a state of emergency. Days later, a protest brought thousands of people on to the streets in protest.

Last week, former elected leader Aung San Suu Kyi was charged with breaking a colonial-era official secrets act, which carries a 14-year prison term. (AP/PTI)