Myanmar coup: Military blocks Facebook for sake of ‘stability’
Myanmar’s military rulers have blocked access to Facebook, days after they overthrew the democratic government.
Officials said the social media platform – for many in Myanmar the main source of online information – would be blocked for the sake of “stability”.
Facebook has become a key rallying point for opposition to Monday’s coup.
In further civil disobedience, lawmakers are refusing to leave their compound in the capital, and more pot-banging was seen in Yangon.
The coup, led by armed forces chief Min Aung Hlaing, installed an 11-member junta, ending a short period of majority civilian rule.
The military said an election in November had been fraudulent – though the country’s election commission said there was no evidence of such fraud.
The elected civilian leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, along with President Win Myint, were detained and on Wednesday police filed charges against them.
The charges against her include possession of unlawful communication devices – walkie-talkies used by her security staff.
President Myint is accused of breaching Covid rules while campaigning for last November’s election, won decisively by Ms Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy.
What is Facebook’s role?
The Ministry of Communications and Information said access to Facebook would be blocked until 7 February. However, it was still reported to be accessible sporadically.
Anthony Aung, who runs a tour agency in Yangon, the main city, told the BBC at one point he still had access to the site through WiFi but not cellular data.
He said “people around me are all rushing to download alternative apps and VPN” – virtual private networks which allow users to get round internet restrictions.
Hours later, Mr Aung said Facebook had stopped working completely.
Half of Myanmar’s 54 million people use Facebook and activists have set up a page to co-ordinate opposition to the coup.
Facebook became popular as the company initially allowed its app to be used without data costs in Myanmar so that consumers could avoid paying expensive telecoms data charges.
The social media giant acknowledged the disruption, saying “we urge authorities to restore connectivity so that people in Myanmar can communicate with their families and friends and access important information”.
Telecoms company Telenor Myanmar, which is part of the Norwegian Telenor Group, said it would comply with the order to block Facebook, but suggested in a statement that this breached human rights law.