YouTube removes Myanmar army’s channels as U.N. is set to discuss crisis

Women protest in Mandalay, Myanmar
Women with a portrait of deposed Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi take part in an anti-coup protest in Mandalay, Myanmar, on Friday.
(Associated Press)

YouTube said Friday that it had removed five channels run by Myanmar’s military as demonstrators in the Southeast Asian nation defied growing violence by security forces and staged more anti-coup protests ahead of a special United Nations Security Council meeting on the political crisis.

YouTube said that the channels were yanked because they violated its guidelines, and that it was watching for any further content that might breach its rules. It earlier pulled dozens of channels as part of an investigation into content uploaded in a coordinated influence campaign.

The decision by YouTube followed Facebook’s earlier announcement that it has removed all Myanmar military-linked pages from its site and from Instagram, which it also owns.


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

Large protests against military rule have occurred daily in many cities and towns. 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 U.N. Human Rights Office. More than 1,000 people have been arrested, the independent Assistance Assn. for Political Prisoners said.

Protests continued in the country’s biggest cities, Yangon and Mandalay, and elsewhere Friday, and were again met by force from police.

Kyal Sin wore a T-shirt that said ‘Everything will be OK’ when she was shot by Myanmar security forces on the deadliest day since the military coup.

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

The United States called the images appalling, the U.N. 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 Friday.

While many abuses are committed by police, there is even greater concern about military forces being deployed that 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 upon protesters and ramming them with trucks, witnesses told Human Rights Watch.

Staged car breakdowns, blocked railway tracks and civil servant strikes are putting pressure on the junta and raising fears of a harsh crackdown.

The 99th Light Infantry Division has also been deployed, including in Mandalay. It is infamous for its counter-insurgency campaigns against ethnic minorities across the country, including spearheading the brutal response that caused more than 700,000 Rohingya Muslims to flee from Myanmar’s 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 coordinated action at the U.N. will be difficult since two permanent members of the Security Council, China and Russia, are likely to veto it.

Even if the council did take action, the U.N.’s special envoy to Myanmar, Christine Schraner Burgener, cautioned this week that it might not make much difference. She said she warned Myanmar’s army that the world’s nations and the Security Council “might take huge strong measures.”

“And the answer was, ‘We are used to sanctions, and we survived those sanctions in the past,’” she said. When she also warned that Myanmar would become isolated, Schraner Burgener said that “the answer was: ‘We have to learn to walk with only a few friends.’”

Burmese punk band Rebel Riot’s lead singer embodies the growing outrage over the military coup. He’s now rallying others to resist.

The Assn. of Southeast Asian Nations has urged a halt to violence and the start of talks on a peaceful solution.

The 10-member regional grouping, which includes Myanmar, is constrained from enacting serious measures by a tradition of acting by consensus and reluctance to interfere in each other’s internal affairs.

However, one member, Singapore, was outspoken on Friday in criticizing Myanmar’s crackdown on protesters.

“It is the height of national shame for the armed forces of any country to turn its arms against its own people,” its foreign minister, Vivian Balakrishnan, said in Parliament.

But he also warned that the approach favored by some Western nations, of pressuring Myanmar’s generals with sanctions, would not be effective. The U.S., Britain and several other countries have already started to use that approach.

“Despite all our fervor and earnest hopes of reconciliation ... the keys ultimately lie within Myanmar. And there’s a limit to how far external pressure will be brought to bear,” he said.