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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 only access to the internet – would be blocked for the sake of “stability”.

Facebook has become a key rallying point for opposition to Monday’s coup.

In the latest sign of civil disobedience, lawmakers have declared a new parliamentary session, and more pot-banging was seen in Yangon.

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.

Half of Myanmar’s 53 million people use Facebook and activists have set up a page to co-ordinate opposition to the coup.

Facebook allows its app to be used without data costs in Myanmar as a way of avoiding 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.”

What is happening on the streets?

Reports from Mayanmar’s second city, Mandalay, say there was a small demonstration and some arrests.

In the main city, Yangon, residents banged cooking pots for a second night running in a sign of protest.

At least 70 lawmakers are refusing to leave a government guest house in the capital, Nay Pyi Taw, and have declared a new parliamentary session, BBC Burmese reports.

The MPs belong to the National League for Democracy (NLD) led by Aung San Suu Kyi – the elected civilian leader overthrown and then arrested in the coup. The military filed charged against her and the deposed President Win Myint on Wednesday.

The lawmakers are among hundreds who were confined by the military to guest houses before being told they were free to leave.

But the streets are for the most part calm with no sign of major protest and a curfew in force.

However, hospitals have seen protests. Many medics have either stopped work, or continued while wearing symbols of defiance to oppose the suppression of Myanmar’s short-lived democracy.

The UN Secretary General, António Guterres, has meanwhile called for constitutional order to be re-established in Myanmar – also known as Burma. He said he hoped there would be unity in the Security Council on the matter.

“We’ll do everything we can to mobilise all the key actors of the international community to put enough pressure on Myanmar to make sure that this coup fails,” he said.

bbc