YANGON – Sightings of armored personnel carriers in Myanmar’s biggest city and an internet shutdown raised political tensions late Sunday, after vast numbers of people around the country flouted orders against demonstrations to protest the military’s seizure of power.
Public concern has already been heightened for the past few nights by what many charge is the military’s manipulation of criminals released from prison to carry out nighttime violence and stir up panic.
Ambassadors from the United States and Canada and 12 European nations called on Myanmar's security forces to refrain from violence against those “protesting the overthrow of their legitimate government.” They condemned the arrests of political leaders and activists as well as the military’s interference with communications.
"We support the people of Myanmar in their quest for democracy, freedom, peace, and prosperity,” they said in a joint statement issued late Sunday night. “The world is watching.”
The military seized power on Feb. 1, detaining the country's elected leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, and members of her government and preventing recently elected lawmakers from opening a new session of Parliament.
The junta, led by Senior Gen. Min Aung Hlaing, said it was forced to step in because the government failed to properly investigate allegations of fraud in last year’s election, which Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy party won in a landslide. The state election commission found no evidence to support the allegations.
There was no official word about why armored personnel carriers traversed the streets of Yangon in broad daylight Sunday, making their way through busy traffic. As night fell, there were videos and other reports on social media of the movement of trucks packed with soldiers, and in the central city of Mandalay as well.
An order that appears to be from the Ministry of Transport and Communications told mobile phone service providers to shut down internet connections from 1 a.m. to 9 a.m. Monday. It circulated widely on social media, as did a notice said to be from service provider Oredoo Myanmar containing the same details. Several users contacted through other means confirmed that access though Myanmar's broadband and mobile services were cut as scheduled.