Fibre-based landline internet connections were still working in the country, albeit at drastically reduced speeds.

This handout photo taken and released by Dawei Watch shows protesters taking part in a demonstration against the military coup in Dawei, Myanmar, April 1, 2021.
This handout photo taken and released by Dawei Watch shows protesters taking part in a demonstration against the military coup in Dawei, Myanmar, April 1, 2021. (AFP)

Myanmar's wireless broadband internet services have been shut down by order of the military, a local provider said, as protesters continued to defy the threat of lethal violence to oppose the junta's takeover.

A directive from the Ministry of Transport and Communications on Thursday instructed that "all wireless broadband data services be temporarily suspended until further notice,” according to a statement posted online by local provider Ooredoo.

Also Friday, the New York-based Human Rights Watch issued a report saying that Myanmar's military has forcibly disappeared hundreds of people, including politicians, election officials, journalists, activists and protesters and refused to confirm their location or allow access to lawyers or family members in violation of international law.

“The military junta’s widespread use of arbitrary arrests and enforced disappearances appears designed to strike fear in the hearts of anti-coup protesters,” said Brad Adams, Human Rights Watch's Asia director. “Concerned governments should demand the release of everyone disappeared and impose targeted economic sanctions against junta leaders to finally hold this abusive military to account.”

The crisis in the Southeast Asian nation has expanded sharply in the past week, both in the number of protesters killed and with military airstrikes against the guerrilla forces of the Karen ethnic minority in their homeland along the border with Thailand.

In areas controlled by the Karen, more than a dozen civilians have been killed since Saturday and more than 20,000 have been displaced, according to the Free Burma Rangers, a relief agency operating in the area.

READ MORE: Rebel attack amid protests signals widening crisis in Myanmar

Calls for strike

Anti-coup groups shared radio frequencies, offline internet resources and providers of text message news alerts to try to circumvent new curbs on the internet, which now limit Web access to fixed-line services only.

The military did not announce or explain its order to telecom firms to cut wireless broadband, which adds to a ban on mobile data through which a nationwide movement has mobilised on social media and spread images of the junta's lethal suppression of mostly youth-led protests.

Late on Thursday, protesters spread a call for a "flower strike" at bus stops where demonstrators killed by security forces had departed on their last journeys.

"We will leave flowers at bus stops tomorrow ... That's what I want to tell you guys before the internet is down," Khin Sadar, a protest leader, posted on Facebook.

"In the following days, there were street protests. Do as many guerrilla strikes as you can. Please join."

"Let's listen to the radio again. Let's make phone calls to each other too."

READ MORE: Anti-coup protesters back on Myanmar streets after deadly day

International sanctions

The UN Security Council has "strongly condemned" the deaths of hundreds of civilians in Myanmar, in an unanimous statement watered down by China after two days of tough negotiations.

"Members of the Security Council expressed deep concern at the rapidly deteriorating situation and strongly condemned the use of violence against peaceful protestors and the deaths of hundreds of civilians, including women and children," read the statement, initiated by former colonial power Britain.

In earlier versions of the text, obtained by AFP, Western nations wanted to include a "readiness to consider further steps", a reference to the possibility of international sanctions.

But China, considered Myanmar's most important ally, blocked the language, diplomats said.

Beijing also insisted on softening a reference to the "killing" of hundreds of civilians and changing it to civilian "deaths".

READ MORE: Myanmar protests continue a day after dozens killed by security forces

'Very important signal'

Russia, diplomats said, also blocked the text several times because Moscow wanted a sentence condemning the death of security forces members in demonstrations.

Still, despite the lengthy negotiations, getting the Security Council to speak with one voice sent a "very important signal," one ambassador said on condition of anonymity.

Since the February 1 coup, the Security Council has issued three unanimous statements on Myanmar.

But Beijing, which has never recognized the existence of a coup, reduced the scope of the negotiated texts each time.

Moreover, the Security Council's positions have had little effect on the military so far.

On Wednesday, the UN's special envoy on Myanmar called for strong actions against the junta and warned of a possible "bloodbath" and the risk of civil war.

READ MORE: Myanmar families hold funerals for loved ones killed at anti-coup protests

Source: AFP