Facebook bans all junta-linked accounts, ads

YANGON, MYANMAR (AP) – Social media giant Facebook announced yesterday it was banning all accounts linked to Myanmar’s military as well as ads from military-controlled companies in the wake of the army’s seizure of power on February 1.

It said in a statement that it was treating the post-coup situation in Myanmar as an “emergency,” explaining that the ban was precipitated by events since the coup, including “deadly violence”.

Facebook’s action comes as diplomatic efforts to resolve Myanmar’s political crisis have intensified and protests continued in Yangon and other cities calling for the country’s coup makers to step down and return Aung San Suu Kyi’s elected government to power.

Facebook already has banned several military-linked accounts since the coup, including army-controlled Myawaddy TV and state television broadcaster MRTV.

The bans are also being applied on Instagram, which is owned by Facebook.

An anti-coup protester stands next to images of deposed Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi during a street march in Mandalay, Myanmar. PHOTO: AP

Facebook and other social media platforms came under enormous criticism in 2017 when right groups said they failed to act enough to stop hate speech against Myanmar’s Muslim Rohingya minority.

The army launched a brutal counterinsurgency operation that year that drove more than 700,000 Rohingya to seek safety in neighboring Bangladesh, where they remain in refugee camps. Myanmar security forces burned down villages, killed civilians and engaged in mass rape in their campaign, which the World Court is investigating as a crime of genocide.

Facebook in 2018 banned the accounts of several top Myanmar military leaders, including Senior General Min Aung Hlaing, who led this month’s coup that ousted the elected government of Aung San Suu Kyi and her National League for Democracy party. The general heads the junta that now acts as the government.

The junta has tried to block Facebook and other social media platforms, but its efforts have proven ineffective. For more than a week it has also turned off access to the Internet nightly from 1am.

Indonesian Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi on Wednesday visited the Thai capital, Bangkok, and held three-way talks with her Thai counterpart Don Pramudwinai and Myanmar’s new Foreign Minister, retired army colonel Wunna Maung Lwin, who also traveled to Thailand. The meeting was part of Marsudi’s efforts to coordinate a regional response to the crisis triggered by the military takeover in Myanmar.

Indonesia and fellow members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations are seeking to promote some concessions by Myanmar’s military that could ease tensions to prevent more violence. The regional grouping, to which Thailand and Myanmar also belong, believes dialogue with the generals is a more effective method of achieving concessions than more confrontational methods, such as the sanctions often advocated by Western nations.