Military Chief's Russian Social Media Account Removed, Reappears

By The Irrawaddy 17 September 2018

YANGON — Just over two weeks after Myanmar’s military chief had found a new propaganda platform on VKontakte (VK), Senior-General Min Aung Hlaing was removed from Russia’s most popular social media network over the weekend.

It was the second time the country’s top military leader was banned from a social networking site.

In late August, US-based social media giant Facebook announced that it had deleted the pages and accounts of 20 organizations and individuals — including Snr-Gen Min Aung Hlaing — that “committed or enabled serious human rights abuses in [Myanmar].” The network’s statement followed on the heels of a report by the UN’s human rights office that found those Facebook accounts and pages had contributed to human rights abuses, especially to last year’s Rohingya crisis in northern Rakhine State.

The senior-general migrated to VK less than 48 hours after his Facebook account was shut down.

His new page, named “Senior General Min Aung Hlaing,” was blocked on Saturday night. Visitors were greeted by a short message that said “This page has been blocked due to violation of the VK terms of service” but provided no further explanation.

Minutes later, however, a new VK page appeared under the same name with the military chief’s picture, but with none of the old posts. The first post on the new page was dated Saturday and was about his meeting with military officers in Kalaw Township, Shan State. On Monday, the new page had some 4,600 followers.

Snr-Gen Min Aung Hlaing’s Facebook page had been relatively active and up to date compared with the pages of many of Myanmar’s politicians and government agencies, including the President’s Office and the State Counselor’s Office. It posted information about the military’s chief activities and important statements in real time. When the senior general met a foreign dignitary about the Rohingya crisis, the page posted a lengthy defense of the military’s activities in Rakhine.