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.
Vast numbers of people around the country again flouted orders against demonstrations to protest the military’s seizure of power.
As night fell, 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.
Monday holds the prospect of two flashpoints for the political standoff.
Deposed leader Aung San Suu Kyi remains under house arrest, but a remand order holding her on a minor charge of possessing unregistered imported walkie-talkies expires Monday and a court in the capital, Naypyitaw, is supposed to take action on her case. Her freedom is a major demand of the protest movement.
There is also the possibility that a young woman who was shot during a demonstration last week, also in Naypyitaw, will be declared legally dead. She has been on life support in a hospital in the capital, and unofficial memorial services were held for her Sunday at protests in Yangon and Mandalay, the country’s two biggest cities.
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.