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Myanmar: 'The world is watching' say Western countries as junta shuts down internet again

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A large image that has an X mark on the face of Commander in chief Senior Gen. Min Aung Hlaing lies on a road as anti-coup protesters gather in Yangon, Sunday, Feb. 14, 2021.
A large image that has an X mark on the face of Commander in chief Senior Gen. Min Aung Hlaing lies on a road as anti-coup protesters gather in Yangon, Sunday, Feb. 14, 2021.   -   Copyright  AP Photo
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A near-total internet shutdown was reported in Myanmar on Sunday night, as mass protests against the military coup of February 1 entered their second week.

Earlier, armoured personnel carriers were seen on the streets of Myanmar's biggest city, Yangon, further raising tensions.

On Monday vast numbers of people around the country again flouted orders against demonstrations to protest the military’s seizure of power.

Despite the internet blackout, thousands of engineers marched on the streets of Mandalay, the country’s second-largest city, chanting and holding signs that read: “Free our leader,” “Who stands with justice?” and “Stop arresting people illegally at midnight.”

In Yangon, the country’s most populous city, fewer protesters gathered, but there were still several hundred anti-coup demonstrators outside the Central Bank of Myanmar building, where there were also military trucks full of soldiers, riot police, water-cannon trucks and armored personnel carriers.

Meanwhile the military leaders extended their detention of deposed leader Aung San Suu Kyi, whose detention was set to expire on Monday.

Her release is a key demand of the protesting crowds, but she will now be remanded until Wednesday, when she will likely appear in court by videoconference, according to Khin Maung Zaw, a lawyer asked by Suu Kyi’s party to represent her.

Military vehicles on the move

As night fell on Sunday, there were reports on social media of other military vehicles on the move, along with indications that the internet was about to be cut.

An order that appeared to be from the Ministry of Transport and Communications told mobile phone service providers to shut down internet connections from 1 a.m. to 9 a.m. Monday.

Netblocks, a London-based service that tracks internet disruptions and shutdowns, said on Sunday night that a near-total internet shutdown was in effect, with connectivity at just 14% of normal levels.

Previous leaks of government orders to limit internet access have proven accurate, and the United States and some other Western embassies warned about the military movements and possible internet shutdown.

Later, several Western embassies joined together to call on Myanmar security forces to refrain from violence, saying "the world is watching".

There was no official word earlier about why the APCs were on the streets in broad daylight on Sunday, making their way through busy traffic.

Public concern has already been heightened for the past few nights by what many charge is the military’s manipulation of criminals released from prison to carry out nighttime violence and instill panic.

Large demonstrations were also held in Naypyitaw and far-flung corners of the country dominated by ethnic minorities.

The military seized power on February 1, detaining Suu Kyi and members of her government, and preventing recently elected lawmakers from opening a new session of Parliament.

The junta, led by Senior Gen. Min Aung Hlaing, said it was forced to step in because the government failed to properly investigate allegations of fraud in last year’s election, which Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy party won in a landslide.

The state election commission refuted that contention, saying there is no evidence to support it.