Myanmar’s military government ordered broadband Internet shutdowns Thursday amid violent suppression of opposition to its ouster of the country’s democratically elected government.
The escalation came as the country marked two months since the army’s toppling of the civilian-led government, a coup that has faced widespread public resistance despite the military’s lethal response. More than 500 civilian protesters have been killed, and more than 2,000 arrested since Feb. 1, according to local activists.
The United Nations’ special envoy for Myanmar, Christine Schraner Burgener, on Wednesday warned that “a bloodbath is imminent” if the international community does not act to quell the violence.
Saturday was the bloodiest day since the coup, with troops reportedly killing over 140 protesters in more than 40 locations across the country.
Reuters reported Thursday that official orders to halt wireless broadband services did not provide any explanation. Myanmar’s military previously shut down mobile Internet access and slowed Internet service.
An attorney for Aung San Suu Kyi on Thursday said Myanmar’s deposed leader had been charged the week before in Yangon with breaking the country’s secrets law, the most serious allegation against her yet. The lawyer told Reuters that he had heard about the charges against the detained leader and several other members of her National League for Democracy (NLD) two days ago.
If convicted, she could face up to 14 years in jail.
Suu Kyi, who the military previously held under house arrest for a total of 15 years, is revered by Myanmar’s pro-democracy camp. Calls for her release have been a rallying cry among protesters in the streets.
Suu Kyi won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1991, though in recent years she’s faced international backlash for her support of the military’s violent campaigns against Myanmar’s Rohingya Muslim community.
The military said it intervened to oust Suu Kyi after false claims of election fraud in a November vote.
The coup cut off Myanmar’s fledgling march toward democracy and opened up old fronts of conflict in the country once renowned for its ethnic diversity. In recent weeks, the military has escalated attacks against two opposition groups, the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) and the Karen National Union (KNU), Reuters reported.