Myanmar junta orders internet blackout as more pro-democracy protesters are detained

Pro-Democratic protesters have repeatedly filled streets across the country for nearly two months in protest after the military overthrew the elected government over allegations of electoral fraud and installed a ruling junta.

The military has responded to the protests with a bloody crackdown. At least 550 people have been killed by junta forces, according to the advocacy group Assistance Association of Political Prisoners (AAPP).

The rights group Human Rights Watch (HRW) said on Friday that the junta had also “forcibly disappeared hundreds of people” – including politicians, election officials, journalists, activists and protesters – since the February 1 coup.

At least 2,751 people, including journalists, protesters, activists, government officials, trade unionists, writers, students, civilians and even children, have been detained, often in night raids, according to the AAPP.

On Friday, most Myanmar citizens woke up to no Internet access after telecommunications companies received instructions from the Department of Transportation and Communications to stop wireless broadband Internet services.

Customers at telecommunications company Ooredoo received text messages the night before, saying that wireless services would be stopped for the time being. The directive was dated 1 April. A majority of Myanmar customers connect to the Internet through wireless data services, and the move will only allow those with physical connections to access the Internet.

Mobile data has also been disabled for the 19th day, according to Internet monitor Netblocks.

CNN has contacted Myanmar’s military for comment on the wireless internet shutdown.

While the military is cracking down on the flow of information, dozens of journalists, according to the UN, have been detained by security forces, as have citizens who have spoken to the media, according to reports.

Suffering in Myanmar after weekend with 'outrageous' bloodshed

A CNN team spoke to residents Friday while visiting a bazaar in Yangon’s Insein township. CNN is in Myanmar with permission from the military and is being escorted by the military, also during the visit to the market.

Two women were arrested afterwards, according to a report from local business The Irrawaddy. The report included an eyewitness account that a woman was seen talking to the CNN team. It is unclear from that report whether the woman was among those arrested shortly after. An impromptu anti-regime protest broke out while the team was present, its report added.

Several unconfirmed reports posted on social media said at least two people had been taken away by security forces after talking to the CNN team.

CNN has contacted Myanmar’s military to comment on the reported detentions.

In its latest briefing, the AAPP said it could confirm the location of “only a small fraction” of the recent detainees it had identified.

The co-chairmen of the UN Friends Group on the Protection of Journalists issued a statement on Thursday expressing “deep concern at the attacks on the right to freedom of opinion and expression and the situation of journalists and media workers in Myanmar and strongly condemning their harassment, arbitrary arrests and detentions as well as of human rights defenders and other members of civil society. “


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