Myanmar Military takes country offline for second night as UN sends warning

The United Nations has warned the Myanmar military of “severe consequences” if it responds harshly to the protests that have taken place across the country following the February 1 coup.

A second internet blackout has also been lifted after it was blocked by Myanmar's new military rulers.

Internet monitoring group NetBlocks said the blackout came into force at 1am local time (18:30 GMT) but that connectivity was restored eight hours later.

“Internet service in #Myanmar has been restored from 9am after a second night under internet curfew leaving residents offline and without a voice following the military coup,” NetBlocks tweeted on Tuesday morning.

The blackout was the second night in a row and the fourth shutdown since the 1 February coup and came as the junta tries to stifle dissent.

The United Nations Special Envoy Christine Schraner Burgener reminded the head of the military junta in a phone call that "the right of peaceful assembly must fully be respected", according to a UN spokesman, warning him that "any form of heavy handed response is likely to have severe consequences".

Earlier, the military authorities announced penalties for those opposing the coup leaders. However, protesters were out again early on Tuesday, with news agency Reuters reporting small groups gathering.

The Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (AAPP), which is tracking detentions, expressed concern that the military could use the internet blackouts to “commit unjust activities including arbitrary arrests.”

It said at least 426 people had been picked up since the coup and 391 remained in custody.

The army has been carrying out nightly arrests and has given itself enhanced search and detention powers through amendments to the colonial-era Penal Code.

The latest shutdown follows a pattern aimed at disrupting continuing opposition to the coup and the detention of leaders, including Ms Suu Kyi, whose party won a resounding victory last November.

The demonstrators are demanding the release from detention of their elected leaders, including Ms Suu Kyi, and the restoration of democracy in Myanmar, also known as Burma.

In a statement posted on a military website on Monday, it said that people preventing the security forces from carrying out their duties could face 20 years in prison, while those found to stir up fear or unrest in public could be imprisoned for terms of three to seven years.

Meanwhile, a new cybersecurity bill, which would allow those in power to ban content they dislike, restrict internet providers and intercept data, is also under consideration.

Major telecoms provider Telenor has said it will no longer be updating a list on its website of internet disruption.

Sigve Brekke, Telenor’s CEO said on Twitter: “A Cyber Sec bill should give due consideration to fundamental human rights such as freedom of speech and privacy to people in Myanmar.”

Aung San Suu Kyi’s party won a 2015 election and another on November 8 – by an even larger majority – but the military claimed the vote was fraudulent and used that complaint to justify its coup. The electoral commission has dismissed accusations of fraud.