Facebook Substitute Plans Revealed; The army admits the coup, and more

junta watch

Min Aung Hlaing and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov in Naypyitaw on August 3. / Cincds

By The Irrawaddy August 20, 2022

Plan to replace Facebook with its own social media platform

The Facebook logo is displayed next to a screen indicating that the social media platform is not accessible. /AFP

Unable to spread propaganda on the social media platform Facebook, which is synonymous with the internet in Myanmar, the regime is looking for an alternative.

At the junta’s latest press conference on Wednesday, spokesman Major General Zaw Min Tun revealed the regime’s plan to ban Facebook and replace it with a local social media platform.

Facebook has banned Min Aung Hlaing from its site since 2018 and removed the official Myanmar military page and accounts of senior military officials after the coup. Military-owned businesses were also banned from advertising on Facebook, and nationalist posts and pages were also removed.

Junta spokesman Zaw Min Tun called Facebook the main channel used by anti-military forces to stir up instability and violence.

Following the coup, the Burmese military shut down internet and phone lines and severed access to major social media sites, including Facebook. It also changes the cybersecurity law to include a three-year prison sentence for using a virtual private network (VPN) to access the internet.

Additionally, the regime routinely violates citizens’ privacy by requiring their phones to be checked for VPNs or any content deemed anti-military. Phones are seized and owners detained if VPN apps are found, a serious human rights violation.

China, which has enormous influence over the regime, also bans Google, Facebook, Twitter and Wikipedia and criminalizes unauthorized use of VPNs. It would not be surprising if the regime took inspiration from Beijing.

Junta to monopolize Myanmar’s fuel market

One of Yangon’s beleaguered gas stations. /AFP

Amid severe fuel shortages and price hikes in Myanmar, the military regime formed a committee to import fuel from Russia chaired by former Lt. Gen. Nyo Saw, chairman of the military conglomerate Myanmar Economic Corporation ( MEC), with the aim of monopolizing the market.

Nyo Saw is a long-time aide to junta leader General Min Aung Hlaing. As the man who manages the affairs of the Burmese army, he plays a key role in financing the military regime.

The committee also includes army-linked cronies such as Maung Maung Naing, CEO of Yetagon Energy Co, which runs companies owned by Aung Pyae Sone, the son of junta leader Min Aung Hlaing.

The committee is responsible for procuring, storing and distributing Russian fuel to the domestic market as well as to Myanmar’s military and junta ministries.

At a regime meeting on Wednesday, Min Aung Hlaing blamed suppliers for soaring fuel prices in Myanmar, accusing them of manipulating the market. He told the people of Myanmar not to worry as a steady supply of fuel bought from Russia would arrive soon. Time will tell us.

Spokesman confesses to coup

Regime spokesman Major General Zaw Min Tun at a press conference in May 2022

Min Aung Hlaing has repeatedly insisted to the Burmese people and the international community that his overthrow of the elected government on February 1 last year was not a coup, but a conforming power grab. to the law. But junta spokesman Major General Zaw Min Tun appeared to stray from that line when he told a regime press conference on Wednesday that the National League for Democracy had forced the army to stage a coup.

Since the coup, Burma’s military has repeatedly said the takeover was a legal move it was forced to take after the NLD government failed to address its grievances over election fraud. But now the regime has admitted that it was in fact a coup.

As post-election tensions between the military and the NLD escalated in January last year, it was Major General Zaw Min Tun who refused to rule out the possibility of a coup .

More than 18 months after the coup, the regime faces growing resistance across the country and a faltering economy. Meanwhile, the population is suffering from an increase in the cost of living, including soaring food prices, thanks to Min Aung Hlaing’s mismanagement.

Myanmar and Russia to open consulates

Min Aung Hlaing and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov in Naypyitaw on August 3. / Cincds

Amid international condemnation of Myanmar’s military for its coup and Russia for its invasion of Ukraine, Moscow and Naypyitaw are considering opening consulates in each other’s countries, it said on Wednesday. junta spokesman Major General Zaw Min Tun at a regime press conference.

Russia supported the military coup and Myanmar’s military regime reciprocated by backing the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Lately, the two countries have promoted economic cooperation in addition to military and diplomatic relations.

With weapons supplied by Russia, the Burmese army fights the resistance forces and kills civilians. Myanmar is also struggling to import fuel from Russia to deal with the country’s energy crisis.

The regime also plans to open Russian language courses for hotel and tourism staff, as it hopes to attract Russian travelers to Myanmar.

As the military regime drew international ire following the hanging of four pro-democracy activists, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov visited Naypyitaw in early August to show Moscow’s support for the junta. Junta leader Min Aung Hlaing also urged Russia’s foreign minister to move the Russian embassy from Yangon to Naypyitaw.

In short, Russia and the Myanmar military have truly become partners in crime.

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