Myanmar junta blocks Facebook in bid to quell dissent, Latest World News - The New Paper

Myanmar junta blocks Facebook in bid to quell dissent

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YANGON: Myanmar's junta blocked Facebook yesterday, shutting off an important channel of opposition to this week's military coup as sporadic protests flared.

Military ruler Min Aung Hlaing was moving quickly to consolidate his hold on power following the overthrow of elected leader Aung San Suu Kyi and the detention of her and allied politicians on Monday.

He told a business group on Wednesday he could keep power for six months after a one-year state of emergency ends so as to hold fair elections.

But in a show of defiance to the generals, about a dozen of the lawmakers elected in a Nov 8 ballot convened a symbolic parliamentary session in the quarters where they have been staying since the takeover.

Small protests took place in the main city of Yangon and elsewhere, with activists saying three people had been arrested.

But in a country with a bloody history of crackdowns on demonstrations, there was no mass outpouring of opposition to the coup on the streets.

The army seized power on Monday, alleging irregularities in the election, derailing Myanmar's long and difficult transition to democracy.

The move was condemned by the United Nations and governments, who called on the junta to respect Ms Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy's landslide victory.

Opposition to the junta has emerged strongly on Facebook, the country's main Internet platform. The Ministry of Communications and Information said Facebook - used by half of Myanmar's more than 53 million people - would be blocked until this Sunday, because users were "spreading fake news and misinformation and causing misunderstanding".

Facebook's WhatsApp messaging was also blocked.

Staff at government hospitals stopped work on Wednesday or wore ribbons in the NLD's red colour. In response, the army said yesterday people could get treatment in military hospitals.

Pictures shared on Wednesday showed workers at the Agriculture Ministry joining the campaign of disobedience. Other signs of anger have emerged. For two nights, people in Yangon and other cities have banged on pots and pans and honked car horns. - REUTERS