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Myanmar generals shut down internet as thousands protest coup

THOUSANDS of people took to the streets of Yangon to denounce this week’s coup and demand the release of elected leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

As the protest swelled and activists issued calls on social media for people to join the march, the country’s internet crashed.

Monitoring group NetBlocks Internet Observatory reported a “national-scale internet blackout”, saying on Twitter that connectivity had fallen to 54% of ordinary levels. Witnesses reported a shutdown of mobile data services.

The junta extended a social media crackdown to Twitter and Instagram after seeking to silence dissent by temporarily blocking Facebook, which counts half of the population as users.

Norwegian mobile network provider Telenor ASA said authorities had ordered all mobile operators to temporarily shut down the data network, although voice and SMS services remained open.

Many activists had sidestepped the Facebook ban by using virtual private networks to conceal their locations, but the more general internet disruption will severely limit their ability to organize and access independent news and information.

Myanmar civil society organizations appealed to internet providers and mobile networks to resist the junta’s orders, saying in joint statement they were “essentially legitimizing the military’s authority”.