Anti-coup tweets take off in Myanmar

Anti-coup tweets take off in Myanmar

Thousands take to Twitter after coup leaders block Facebook

(Reuters Photo)
(Reuters Photo)

SINGAPORE: Since Myanmar’s new military rulers imposed a temporary blockade on Facebook on Thursday, thousands in the country have joined Twitter, according to app downloads and a Reuters estimate.

Many are using the platform and pro-democracy hashtags to criticise the army’s takeover and call for peaceful protests until the result of November’s election, which was won in a landslide by Aung San Suu Kyi’s party, is respected.

The hashtags #RespectOurVotes, #HearTheVoiceofMyanmar, and #SaveMyanmar all had hundreds of thousands of interactions by Friday, according to the hashtag tracker BrandMentions.

The junta seized power on Monday in a coup against the democratically elected government of Suu Kyi in response to what the army said was “election fraud”.

Military authorities banned Facebook — which counts half the country's population of 54 million as users — until at least Sunday for the sake of “stability”, after the junta’s opponents began using the platform to organise.

But it took several hours for internet providers to enforce the ban, during which time activists began creating Twitter accounts and sharing them on their Facebook profiles, according to a review of social media messages.

Twitter was by Friday among the five most downloaded apps on both the Google and Apple stores, according to data from the research firm SensorTower.

Out of around 1,500 new Twitter accounts reviewed by Reuters and activated in the last two days using Myanmar related hashtags, most identified themselves as being opposed to the military government, while a handful of accounts were pro-military and posted links to the junta’s press releases.

Some pro-democracy activists used the hashtag #MilkTeaAlliance, to appeal for support to cross-border youth movements pushing for democracy.

The hashtag, which started in Thailand in April, is used prominently by Hong Kong, Thai and Taiwanese activists, with Twitter becoming a key soapbox for the region’s pro-democracy activists.

Twitter declined to comment on the surge of users in Myanmar.

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