independent.ie- Thousands of young protesters took to Myanmar’s streets yesterday in the country’s biggest demonstrations since Monday’s coup as authorities tightened an internet blackout.
The outage, described as “a near-total internet shutdown” that rendered social media inaccessible and mobile lines blocked, failed to dissuade thousands of demonstrators from gathering in Yangon.
“Down with the military dictatorship,” crowds yelled in Myanmar’s biggest city, many donning red headbands – the colour associated with Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy party.
Myanmar’s 10-year dalliance with democracy was brought to an abrupt end following a military takeover in the early hours of Monday.
Though the powerful military had promised for weeks a coup would not take place, Ms Suu Kyi and other senior figures from the ruling party were detained in a dawn raid.
A party spokesman said last Friday that Ms Suu Kyi was under house arrest and “in good health” – but she has not been seen in public since.
An Australian economic adviser to Ms Suu Kyi said he too had been detained, making him the first foreign national confirmed to have been arrested by the new military junta.
“I’m just being detained at the moment, and perhaps charged with something. I don’t know what that would be,” Professor Sean Turnell, a long-time adviser to the Nobel laureate, told the BBC.
Attempts to contact the Macquarie University professor have been unsuccessful since communications went dark.
Twitter connectivity has fallen to 16pc of ordinary levels, according to monitoring group NetBlocks Internet Observatory, while witnesses report a shutdown of mobile data services and wifi.
Facebook was blocked last Thursday and the crackdown extended to Twitter and Instagram yesterday.
Social media is thought to be the country’s most popular method of communication and has helped to spread displays of defiance nationwide. Each night people bang pots and pans from windows, while doctors and teachers refuse to work.
In the capital Naypyidaw, drivers and crowds were spotted raising a three-fingered salute. The gesture of rebellion is inspired by the Hunger Games film series and was first spotted during Thailand’s 2014 anti-military protests.
As thousands of demonstrators united in Yangon, riot police and two water cannons stationed nearby gave a silent warning to dissenters. Further north in Mandalay, as many as 2,000 people were also protesting.
Ms Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy won elections on November 8 in a landslide, a result the generals have refused to recognise, claiming fraud.
Demonstrators have vowed to return today. “They don’t respect our people’s votes and I think they are betraying the country,” one said. “Our revolution starts today.”