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UN factfinding report calls for military prosecution, shuts down Facebook accounts

In one of the most strongly worded reports yet, the United Nations has called out the military’s actions in Arakan State as evidence of “genocidal intent”.

Information collected by the UN’s Independent Fact-Finding Mission on Myanmar [Burma] established accounts of systematic attacks against civilians, unlawful killings, forced labour, sexual violence to obtain information and entrenched impunity by the military, known as the Tatmadaw.

Instead of answering the report the government and military has remained silent.

But one issue that has caused noise was Facebook’s decision to remove 18 accounts and 52 pages associated with the Burmese military, including the page of its commander-in-chief, Senior-General Min Aung Hlaing. Facebook justified the removals, saying it would “prevent them from using our service to further inflame ethnic and religious tensions.”

Taking issue with Facebook’s crackdown, the military-backed Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) spokesperson Thein Tun Oo told DVB on Tuesday the takedown will affect citizens quest to gain information from the military: “Citizens are also now banned to get true information as the [Commander-in-Chief] Facebook page has been removed from Facebook.”

He also explained that the Facebook page, which the military uses as the platform of choice to make breaking news announcements, demonstrated the military’s willingness to make their operations public.

“In the past, because of the lack of information technology, the media faced difficulties to get information from the Tatmadaw. Today, the Commander-in-Chief has opened a Facebook page with his name and posting true news and information what Tatmadaw is doing, how it helps, at what place and at what time, who has received what and whom they have talked to,” added Thein Tun Oo.

The USDP will submit an urgent proposal in the parliament in response to Facebook’s ban on the pages related to the Tatmadaw, Thaung Aye, USDP’s Pyithu Hluttaw representative for Pyawbwe constituency told DVB this afternoon.

“We are writing the proposal now, but we need to take two to three days because it is not enough to refer information stated in the news. We need to see the announcement from Facebook,” Thaung Aye said.

Libby Hogan contributed to this report.