“Cruel Footstep, Cunning step” Analyzing the Trends of Pro-Myanmar Military Propagandists

Analyzing the Trends of Pro-Myanmar Military Propagandists

Executive Summary

The Red Flag has developed an analytical report that strategically focuses on content that can cause viral issues on social media for a period of first quarter starting from January 2024 to April 2024. In summary, it can be studied as follows.

The Military Council (SAC) has been defeated in the many fights across the country. Meanwhile, they intensively implemented their propaganda schemes and, racial and religious incitements employing their lackeys. There are also serial attempts to disunite the different religious groups to create conflict as a consequence, particularly in Northern Shan state and Rakhine state. For instance, those attempts included the Chinese subtitled dissemination of destroying Buddha images in the Kokang region, planned protests in Townships from Northern Rakhine state with a reason of the Arakan Army’s (AA) violence against Rohingya, creation of fire cases in Buthidaung Township by manipulating Rohingya and incitement with an accuse of AA’s genocidal violence against family members of Myanmar soldiers after their navy boats are sunk. Furthermore, anti-Rakhine incitements continuously occurred in Yangon, Mandalay and Mawlamyine. In addition, during the Muslims’ Ramadan period, the prayer room in South Dagon was portrayed as a mosque and a murder that happened between a young couple from Phyu, Bago Region was also portrayed as a religious conflict. It is also obvious that these incitements are targeting those who oppose the Military Council as an attempt to divert their attention. Amongst other areas, those incitements did not seem to have a tremendous impact except in the Northern part of Rakhine state. In fact, to some extent, manipulated actions including racial incitements had a large impact on the Northern Rakhine state and led to deadly conflicts between Rakhine and Rohingya communities. Therefore, it is seriously needed to take action by all relevant stakeholders with pre-emptive measures such as surveillance and precautionary informing systems and preventive plans before the outbreak of massive racial and religious riots soon.

Another point that needs to be cautious is that the dissemination of false information is being vigorously implemented on Telegram, Facebook, YouTube, and TikTok. Particularly, propagandas on Telegram are extended with new languages such as Chinese and Bengali. It is obvious to see that these propagandas intended to create conflicts targeting at the Northern parts of the Rakhine and Shan states respectively. Another factor to be aware of is the dramatic usage of YouTube and TikTok which shortly became popular in Myanmar today. Mainly, they are being used for the dissemination of video clips that incite anti-Muslim attitudes. It is also found that intentional dissemination of some contents on YouTube and TikTok while those contents can cause religious divisiveness, such as the murder of a girl in Phyu Township, the case of a house portrayed as a mosque in South Dagon Township, the news that says an adult novice recites Islamic literature at a mosque in Chaung Sone, Mawlamyine Township and a fight between the young men at a mosque in New Aye, Thaketa Township. One of the matters that need to be specifically highlighted is that some evidences show at least 2 YouTube channels could make money (monetization) from advertisements although those channels usually attempt to disunite racially and religiously and promote pro-military posts and anti-revolution posts. This is a case that needs to be addressed by digital rights activists and the media. Additionally, an immense problem is the emergence of a secret group called the ‘Black Grim Reaper Group’ (အနက်ရောင်သေမင်းတမန်အဖွဲ့) that assassinates the members of revolutionary forces. This group issued a warning announcement dated 28 March saying that they would commit counter-killing if there were bully killings. And then, they subsequently announced via Telegram in early May that they had already killed 3 men in the Bago region. Therefore, how to record and address such a group is also a factor that needs to be taken into account.

Also, another matter that should be highlighted is the use of disguised words or words written in cipher to be free from restriction on social network pages. The Red Flag has been watched and recorded such a total number of 156 words. They can be seen in Section (5) of this report and the Annexed table. As a recorded finding, some disguised words are encouraging for brutal investigation such as the word ‘doing make-up’ (မိတ်ကပ်လူး) instead of the word ‘hit or punch’ (ထိုးကြိတ်), the word ‘dusting’ (ဖုန်ခါ) instead of the word ‘strike or cuff’ (နားရင်းရိုက်), the word ‘tad’ (သဋ်) instead of the word ‘tat’ (kill), the word ‘Yakhee’ (ရခီး) instead of the word ‘Rakhine’ (ရခိုင်), the word ‘lay the eggs’ (ဥများဥချ) instead of the word ‘bombing’ (ဗုံးကြဲ) and so forth. This is a crucial thing for the policyholders from social media since they need to closely monitor and address the online-based incitements of racial and religious violence.  

This full version of the report contains the research findings resulting from an analytical overview of contents posted by pro-military propagandists on Telegram, Facebook, YouTube, and TikTok platforms. Moreover, the report includes information and suggestions that can be used and referred to by media organizations, civil society organizations, and social media companies. Finally, the report made efforts under some limitations during a period of 4 months to alert the people to see and listen to the cunning and cruel steps and footsteps of pro-military propagandists including the excerpts of the most popular contents, the numerical table for data collection, study of disguised words used by the Military council’s propagandist circle and cautionary tactics of propaganda operation.

The Red Flag Quarterly Report #Q1

(January-April 2024)