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Burma's junta tries to clean up its image as repression continues

Through a disinformation campaign in various media
Myanmar soldiers walk down a street during a protest against the military coup in Yangon, Myanmar, Burma, 28 February 2021.

PHOTO/REUTERS  -   Myanmar soldiers walk down a street during a protest against the military coup in Yangon, Myanmar, Burma, 28 February 2021.

The Burmese military junta is trying to clean up its image with a disinformation campaign as it continued on Saturday to crack down with tear gas on pro-democracy demonstrations, in which at least fifty people have died since the coup d'état.

In the pro-government press, the authorities describe the peaceful demonstrations as riots and accuse the protesters of violence, while denying the repression by soldiers and police, despite numerous videos proving it and the UN itself.

Media outlets such as the Global New Light of Myanmar insist on the theory of electoral fraud in last November's elections, which were validated by international observers, and claim that the protests are intended to "destabilise" the country.

To clean up its international image, the military junta has enlisted the services of former Israeli spy and former arms dealer Ari Ben-Menashe, now living in Canada, as its public relations officer, according to the specialist website Foreign Lobby.

In cities such as Rangoon and Mandalay, security forces today fired tear gas and stun grenades in an attempt to disperse the protests, but the demonstrators, clad in helmets and metal shields, are taking to the streets again and again.

In Naipyidó, the capital, protesters held signs reading "We do not accept the military coup" with an image of broken weapons and stepped on photos of junta coup leader Min Aung Hlaing thrown on the ground.

La Policía monta guardia a lo largo de una carretera en Yangon el 1 de marzo de 2021, mientras los manifestantes participan en una manifestación contra el golpe militar
PHOTO/AFP - Police stand guard along a road in Yangon on March 1, 2021, as protesters take part in a demonstration against the military coup.
Appeal to the international community

Peaceful protesters have set themselves the goal of not allowing the army to control the country and ousting it from power, while the hashtag #R2P, which stands for "responsibility to protect", has gone viral on social media.

This UN principle is a global political commitment to prevent serious human rights violations, such as war crimes and crimes against humanity, through the application of measures such as sanctions.

The use of force in this framework is the prerogative of the UN Security Council, which met yesterday in New York without taking any decision and has avoided condemning the military coup, mainly because of the veto power of China and Russia.

The UN Special Envoy for Burma, Christine Schraner Burgener, appeared before the Council and called for strength and speed to "stop the violence and restore democratic institutions in Burma".

The UN envoy, who said that some 50 "innocent and peaceful demonstrators" have been killed so far, insisted that there are confirmed reports that many of these deaths have been caused by live ammunition, which is considered a violation of human rights.

"The use of lethal force against peaceful demonstrators is in clear contravention of international human rights law," said the envoy, whose written statement was released by the UN.

In this regard, she added that there are video footage of military snipers in their positions targeting unarmed protesters, as well as others showing military and police firing indiscriminately at groups of people in different parts of the country.

La destituida líder civil de Myanmar (Birmania), Aung San Suu Kyi
PHOTO/AFP - Myanmar's ousted civilian leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, has been ousted from office.
More than 1,500 arrested

Since the military coup on 1 February, at least 1,522 people have been detained, of whom 1,215 remain under arrest, including politicians, activists, journalists and monks, according to the Association for the Assistance of Political Prisoners (AAPP).

Among those detained are deposed de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi and several members of her cabinet, most of whom are being held incommunicado.

The protesters are demanding that the army, which ruled the country with an iron fist uninterruptedly between 1962 and 2011, allow a return to democracy and recognise the results of last November's elections, in which Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy (NLD), which won with a large majority in 2015, swept to victory.