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05 March 2021

YouTube removes Myanmar army channels as UN meets on coup crisis

05 March 2021

YouTube has removed five channels run by Myanmar’s military for violating guidelines, it announced, as demonstrators defied growing violence by security forces and staged more anti-coup protests ahead of a special UN Security Council meeting on the country’s political crisis.

YouTube said it is watching for any further content that might violate its rules. It earlier pulled dozens of channels as part of an investigation into content uploaded in a co-ordinated influence campaign.

The decision by YouTube to remove Myawaddy Media, MRTV, WD Online Broadcasting, MWD Variety and MWD Myanmar followed Facebook’s earlier announcement that it had removed all Myanmar military-linked pages from its site and from Instagram, which it owns.

The escalation of violence by security forces has put pressure on the world community to act to restrain the junta, which seized power on February 1 by ousting the elected government of Aung San Suu Kyi.

Protesters hold the portrait of deposed Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi (AP)

Large protests against military rule have occurred daily in many cities and towns, and security forces escalated their crackdown this week with greater use of lethal force and mass arrests.

At least 18 protesters were shot dead on Sunday and 38 on Wednesday, according to the UN Human Rights Office.

More than 1,000 people have been arrested, the independent Assistance Association for Political Prisoners said.

Protests continued in the country’s biggest cities, Yangon and Mandalay, and elsewhere on Friday, and were again met with force by police. Gunfire was heard in some areas, and 26-year-old Zaw Myo was shot dead in Mandalay while he and other residents tried to protect a march by a group of engineers.

Many cases of targeted brutality have been captured in photos and videos that have circulated on social media. Videos have showed security forces shooting people at point-blank range and chasing and savagely beating demonstrators.

The body of a protester arrives at a cemetery in Mandalay (AP)

The US called the images appalling, the UN human rights chief said it was time to “end the military’s stranglehold over democracy in Myanmar”, and the world body’s independent expert on human rights in the country, Tom Andrews, urged Security Council members to watch the videos before their closed-door consultations on Friday.

While many abuses are committed by police, there is greater concern about military forces being deployed in cities across the country who are notorious for decades of brutal counter-insurgency tactics and human rights abuses.

In Yangon, members of the army’s 77th Light Infantry Division have been deployed during anti-coup protests. The 77th was also deployed in Yangon in 2007 to suppress anti-junta protests, firing on protesters and ramming them with trucks, witnesses told Human Rights Watch.

The 99th Light Infantry Division has also been deployed, including in Mandalay. It is infamous for counter-insurgency campaigns against ethnic minorities across the country, including spearheading the response that led to a brutal crackdown that caused more than 700,000 Rohingya Muslims to flee from Rakhine state to Bangladesh.

It also has been accused of war crimes in Shan state, another ethnic minority area, in 2016 and early 2017.

Any kind of co-ordinated action at the UN will be difficult since two permanent members of the Security Council, China and Russia, are likely to veto it.

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