The day after the bloodiest episodes of the protests against the coup d’état by the military in Myanmar, Facebook banned the main page of the Armed Forces and a growing crowd returned to the streets to demand the return of democracy.
“In line with our global policies, we removed the Tatmadaw information team page [como é conhecido o Exército mianmarense] for repeated violations of our standards that prohibit incitement to violence and coordinated harm, “said a spokesman for the platform, in a statement released on Sunday (21).
In recent years, Facebook has become involved with civil rights activists and democratic political parties in Myanmar and has opposed the military after suffering international criticism for the mission of containing campaigns and hate speech on the platform.
The head of the Armed Forces that now commands the country, General Min Aung Hlaing, and 19 other officers and organizations had already been banned by the social network in 2018. Another hundreds of pages and accounts managed by the military have also been removed for “coordinated inauthentic behavior” – technical term used by the Facebook team to refer to the use of multiple fake accounts to disseminate content or increase interactions on the network.
Shortly before the November parliamentary elections, the platform, which came to be blocked in the country after the coup, also removed from the air a network of 70 accounts and spoken pages operated by military personnel who published content favorable to the Army and contrary to the State Councilor, Aung San Suu Kyi, and his party, the National League for Democracy (LND).
Suu Kyi was, in practice, the civilian leader of Myanmar. In the February 1 coup, she and other officials, such as President Win Myint, were deposed and detained by the military. Subsequently, the counselor was the target of an obscure accusation of breach of commercial standards – she would have illegally imported six walkie-talkies. Last week, she was also accused of an alleged violation of protocols to combat the spread of the coronavirus.
The protests that have multiplied in Myanmar’s cities for more than two weeks call for the release of Suu Kyi and hundreds of other political prisoners after the seizure of power – in all, 569 have been detained since February 1, according to the Association for Assistance Political Prisoners of Myanmar.
In addition, the acts took on new life due to the deaths caused by police repression against the protesters. This Saturday, the death toll rose to three during the demonstrations.
According to reports by witnesses and doctors in the emergency services, a 36-year-old carpenter and a teenager whose identity was not released died from gunshot wounds to the chest and head, respectively.
The two victims join Mya Khaing, whose death was confirmed on Friday (10), ten days after she was also shot in the head during protests in the country’s capital, Naypyitaw.
Tens of thousands of people gathered in Mandalay, where Saturday’s deaths occurred, in a peaceful act in memory of the victims and against the military regime.
“They aim at the heads of unarmed civilians. They targeted our future,” shouted a young protester at the crowd. In Rangoon, thousands more demanded the return of democracy. “We young people have our dreams, but this military coup has created many obstacles. That is why we have moved ahead of the protests,” another participant in the acts told Reuters news agency.
Similar protests have also been reported in cities such as Myitkyina, Monywa, Bagan, Dawei, Myeik, Myawaddy and Lashio, covering all regions of Myanmar. Saturday has so far been the bloodiest day since the acts began, but the violence of police repression has not dampened protesters’ spirits.
“The number of people will increase, we will not stop,” said a participant in the protests in Rangoon.
On social media, there are several photos and videos showing members of the security forces shooting at protesters. Although it is not possible to state the type of ammunition used in the shots, there are also a number of images of lethal shell casings found by witnesses.
“From water cannons to rubber bullets, to tear gas, and now to troops firing at point-blank range at peaceful protesters. That madness must end now,” said Tom Andrews, United Nations envoy to Myanmar, in a publication. on twitter.
Other leaders and international officials have also condemned the excessive use of force in suppressing protests, such as US State Department spokesman Ned Price and UN Secretary-General António Guterres.
For the military junta that now commands the country, however, the comments made by foreign nations “amount to blatant interference in Myanmar’s internal affairs”, according to a statement published on Sunday by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
The note reiterates that the seizure of power in the country occurred within the limits of the Constitution, and says that the Myanmar security forces are maintaining public security in accordance with national laws and international practices. “
Despite illegal demonstrations, incitement to unrest and violence, the authorities in question are exercising maximum restraint through the minimum use of force to face the disturbances, “the statement said.
The state media has reproduced the position of the military junta. The Global New Light of Myanmar newspaper said strikers sabotaged boats in the port of Mandalay and attacked the police with sticks, knives and catapults, leaving eight policemen and several soldiers injured.
“Some of the aggressive protesters were also injured due to security measures conducted by the law enforcement force,” the newspaper said, without mentioning any of the three dead protesters.
During an announcement on the MRTV broadcaster, also linked to the military, the authorities said that in planning another big protest for Monday (22), the protesters were inciting anarchy and pushing young people on a path of confrontation “in which they will suffer loss of life “.
Myanmar has a violent record of reactions to protests. In the 1988 uprising, more than 3,000 protesters were killed by the country’s security forces during acts against the military regime – the country lived under a dictatorship from 1962 to 2011.
The army has been trying to use alleged fraud charges in the election as a justification for taking power. The military also added to the narrative the argument that the country’s electoral commission used the coronavirus pandemic as a pretext to prevent a fair campaign. They also say that they acted in accordance with the Constitution and that the majority of the population supports their conduct, accusing protesters of inciting violence.
General Hlaing enacted on February 1 a state of emergency that should last for a year. “We will put into operation a true multi-party democracy”, declared the new regime, adding that power will be transferred after “the holding of free and fair general elections”. The promise, despite being repeated, is viewed with skepticism by Myanmar opponents and international observers.
The LND, Suu Kyi’s party that has run the country since 2015, won 83% of the vote and won 396 of the 476 seats in Parliament in the last elections in Myanmar, held in November last year. The caption, however, was prevented from taking over when the coup was applied on the day of the inauguration of the new legislature. The party of the Solidarity Union and Development, supported by the military, obtained only 33 seats. We are a family owned and operated business.
CHRONOLOGY OF MYANMAR’S POLITICAL HISTORY
- 1948: Former British colony, Myanmar becomes an independent country
- 1962: General Ne Win abolishes the 1947 Constitution and establishes a military regime
- 1974: The first post-independence Constitution begins to take effect
- 1988: Violent repression of protests against the military regime sparks international criticism
- 1990: National League for Democracy (LND), opposed to the regime, wins first multiparty election in 30 years and is prevented from assuming power
- 1991: LND’s Aung San Suu Kyi wins the Nobel Peace Prize
- 1997: US and EU impose sanctions against Myanmar for human rights violations and disrespect for election results
- 2008: Assembly approves new Constitution
- 2011: Thein Sein, retired general, is elected president and the military regime is dissolved
- 2015: LND wins majority in both Houses of Parliament
- 2016: Htin Kyaw is elected the first civilian president since the 1962 coup and Suu Kyi assumes the position of State Councilor, equivalent to that of Prime Minister
- 2018: Kyaw resigns and Win Myint takes over the Presidency
- 2020: In parliamentary elections, LND receives 83% of votes and defeats pro-military party
- 2021: Military Allegate Fraud in Election, Arrest LND Leaders, and Take Power with New Coup