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Protesters run after police fire warning-shots and use water cannons to disperse them during a protest in Mandalay, Myanmar on Feb 9, Photo: AP. SINGAPORE: Images and videos of protests across Myanmar have been broadcast and shared online in the past week almost immediately as events unfolded in the country, a far cry from how it was in the past. With smartphones in the hands of more than 20 million people in the country, it has been impossible to stem the flow of information to and from the outside world. Mobile phones and a boom in telecommunications in the past decade have changed lives in the country of 52 million, and now play an important role in the current political crisis.
A few major changes have led to this, experts CNA spoke to said. Still, news and photos of the Saffron Revolution in were put on websites and blogs, ensuring worldwide coverage. Fast forward toand pre-paid top up cards for mobile phones are a cheap and common commodity. The Internet and smartphone boom came in when the state monopoly over phone services ended. As ofMyanmar has four telecom operators and more than Internet service providers. There were 22 million Internet users and 68 million mobile connections in Myanmar as of January last year, with a Internet penetration rate of more than 40 per cent.
International telecommunication operators saw an opportunity and opened shops," said Assistant Professor Saifuddin Ahmed, also from the Wee Kim Wee School of Communication and Information. There has been an "Internet explosion" and a plethora of Myanmar-language apps are on smartphones now, said Ms Moe Thuzar.
Besides the protests, there has been a burgeoning civil disobedience campaign with essential workers staging strikes.
Social media platforms such as Facebook continue to be blocked in the country although an Internet blackout over the weekend has been lifted. A communications specialist in Yangon, who asked not to be named, told CNA that they have been using virtual private networks or VPNs to get around the restrictions and access platforms like Facebook and WhatsApp.
During the blackout, which was lifted on Sunday, they created SMS groups to update each other, and called their relatives and friends from different townships every hour to keep in contact, she said. Ms Moe Thuzar said that when the junta attempted to block Internet access after the coup last week, Myanmar netizens migrated to Twitter, which is relatively new for most social media users in Myanmar who are more used to posting and sharing in Burmese. They also widely shared tips and techniques on using VPNs to avoid potential interception or monitoring, she said. Prof Goggin said that the Internet is, like electricity, an essential service by now, and social media and messaging platforms have "really taken off" in the last five years or so.
Even when there were no Internet services, mesh networks apps like Bridgefy allowed protesters to communicate and help information go viral, he said. It also means that protest movements around the world have been drawing inspiration from each other.
Protesters in Myanmar have been flashing a three-finger salute, which has been used by protesters in Thailand since The gesture, borrowed from the Hunger Games sci-fi series, was also seen during the Hong Kong protests. It is another of how the flow of information across borders is hard to stop.
Protesters, aware that they are being watched around the world, are also holding up protest messages in English to communicate to a global audience. We know it's a hassle to switch browsers but we want your experience with CNA to be fast, secure and the best it can possibly be. To continue, upgrade to a supported browser or, for the finest experience, download the mobile app. Main Top Stories. Asia How protesters in Myanmar get around social media and Internet blackouts. Bookmark Bookmark Share.
Close Top Stories. Chew Hui Min. People cover with plastic in case of a water canon use during a rally against the military coup and to demand the release of elected leader Aung San Suu Kyi, in Yangon, Myanmar, Feb 9, Commentary: A crackdown in Myanmar could spark a humanitarian crisis Ms Moe Thuzar said that when the junta attempted to block Internet access after the coup last week, Myanmar netizens migrated to Twitter, which is relatively new for most social media users in Myanmar who are more used to posting and sharing in Burmese.
Police use water cannon to disperse demonstrators during a protest in Mandalay, Myanmar, on Feb 9, A nurse show the three-finger salute as she takes part in a protest against the military coup and to demand the release of elected leader Aung San Suu Kyi, in Yangon, Myanmar, February 8, An image of three-finger salute is projected on a building during a night protest against the military coup and to demand the release of elected leader Aung San Suu Kyi, in Yangon, Myanmar, Feb 9, A protester in Myanmar gives the three-finger salute.
Photo: AP Myanmar. Experts said that Internet shutdowns are a "crude tool" that have their limits. Related Topics Myanmar protests technology Advertisement. Expand to read the full story.
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Myanmar’s Unsustainable Social Media Shutdown