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

Democracy protesters have repeatedly filled streets across the country for nearly two months in protest against the military overthrew the elected government on electoral fraud claims and installed a ruling junta.

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

Human rights group Human Rights Watch (HRW) said Friday that the junta also “Hundreds of people have forcibly disappeared“- including politicians, election officials, journalists, activists and protesters – since the February 1st coup.

At least 2,751 people, including journalists, protesters, activists, government officials, trade unionists, writers, students, civilians and even children, were arrested in night robberies, according to the AAPP.

On Friday, most of Myanmar’s citizens woke up with no internet access after telecommunications companies received instructions from the Ministry of Transport and Communications to discontinue broadband wireless internet services.

Customers of the telecommunications company Ooredoo received SMS the evening before that cellular services would be discontinued until further notice. The guideline was dated April 1st. A majority of Myanmar customers connect to the internet using wireless data services, and the move allows only those with physical connections to access the internet.

According to the Internet monitor Netblocks, mobile data was also deactivated for the 19th day.

CNN has approached Myanmar’s military for comment shut down on the wireless internet.

While the military is restricting the flow of information, dozens of journalists have been arrested by security forces, according to the United Nations, as have citizens who have reportedly spoken to the media.

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A CNN team spoke to residents Friday while visiting a bazaar in Yangon’s Insein Township. CNN is in Myanmar with the permission of the military and is accompanied by the military, including during the market visit.

Two women were subsequently arrested, according to a report from the local outlet, The Irrawaddy. The report contained an eyewitness account of a woman speaking with the CNN team. It does not appear from this report whether this woman was one of those arrested shortly afterwards. While the team was in attendance, an impromptu protest against the regime broke out, the report added.

Several unverified reports on social media said that at least two people were taken away by security forces after talking to the CNN team.

CNN has reached out to the Myanmar military to comment on the reported detentions.

In its latest briefing, the AAPP said it could confirm the whereabouts of “only a small portion” of the detainees it had recently identified.

The co-chairs of the United Nations Friends’ Group for the Protection of Journalists on Thursday made a statement expressed “deep concern about the attacks on freedom of expression and expression and the situation of journalists and media workers in Myanmar and strongly condemned their harassment, arbitrary arrest and detention, and human rights defenders and other members of civil society.”
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