Myanmar's military, also known the Tatmadaw, has ordered local telecom firms to block Facebook as well as Instagram and WhatsApp citing security concerns amid the current state of emergency in the southeast Asian nation.
The Tatmadaw declared a one-year state of emergency after detaining State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi and President Win Myint as well as other prominent politicians during a series of raids earlier this week. This followed weeks of escalating tensions over allegations of voter fraud in the November 2020 elections, when Aung San Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy emerged victorious in the vote.
The country's Ministry of Communications and Information on Thursday stated that Facebook would be blocked until 7 February, claiming that "currently the people who are troubling the country's stability [….] are spreading fake news and misinformation and causing misunderstanding among people by using Facebook".
A Facebook spokesperson confirmed that access to the social network is "currently disrupted for some people".
"We urge authorities to restore connectivity so that people in Myanmar can communicate with their families and friends and access important information", the spokesperson pointed out.
The block comes after Myanmar police filed charges against Suu Kyi for illegally importing communications equipment, while her party's spokesman Kyi Toe earlier wrote on his Facebook page that several groups of activists and health workers had launched a campaign on the social networking giant against a military takeover in the country.
Myanmar Doctors at Yangon General Hospital’s Emergency Department start challenge on Wednesday to show their solidarity with the ousted National League for Democracy government as part of an ongoing civil disobedience campaign#CivilDisobedienceMovement #JusticeForMyanmar pic.twitter.com/amTsxjnzrF— Snow White (@SnowWhi18335804) February 4, 2021
He added that Aung San Suu Kyi will be in custody until at least 15 February on charges of allegedly importing and owning illegal walkie-talkies.
Charles Santiago, the chair of ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) Parliamentarians for Human Rights described the charges as ludicrous, arguing "this is an absurd move by the junta to try to legitimise their illegal power grab".
The remarks were preceded by United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres pledging that the UN will do its best "to mobilise all the key actors and international community to put enough pressure on Myanmar to make sure that this coup fails".
"It [the military takeover in Myanmar] is absolutely unacceptable after elections – elections that I believe took place normally – and after a large period of transition", Guterres underscored.
The Tatmadaw vowed to "take action" against alleged voter fraud during the 8 November general election, which saw Aung San Suu Kyi's NLD win resoundingly. The military said it was committed to the democratic system, pledging to hold new and fair elections when the state of emergency ends.