‘All Myanmar Is a Horror’—Facebook Mistranslates Daw Aung San Suu Kyi’s Post

By The Irrawaddy 3 April 2020

YANGON—Barely a day after taking to Facebook for the first time in an effort to connect more directly with the public, Myanmar’s de facto leader Daw Aung San Suu Kyi ran into problems with the California-based social media platform, as its auto-English translation function on Thursday rendered parts of her original Burmese-language post into such mistranslations and oddities as “all Myanmar is a horror” and “all the worlds of the world Eliminate.”

The 74-year-old joined the platform on Wednesday. In her first post in Burmese, she said she “had not intended to use Facebook, but now [I] will use this to be able to communicate quickly and effectively with the people regarding COVID-19 challenges.” Facebook is the most popular social media platform in Myanmar.

However, when she published her second post on Thursday about the government’s response to her discussions with four people involved in the fight against the disease, the app’s auto-English translation function embarrassed her with a series of often bizarre mistranslations.

A screengrab of Facebook’s English-language translation of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi’s post.

At the end of the post, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi says her father, independence hero General Aung San, sometimes used to end his speeches with a Pali expression meaning, “May Myanmar be free from danger.”

“For me, I would say, “May everyone in the world be free from danger,” she ends her post.

But Facebook translated her father’s quote as: “all Myanmar is a horror.”

The translation ends on a brutal note: “…all the worlds of the world Eliminate.”

It’s not the first time Facebook’s translation function has caused embarrassment among Myanmar officials. When Chinese President Xi Jinping visited Myanmar in January, the platform rendered the president’s name as “Mr Shithole” in an English translation of a post about the visit published by the State Counselor’s Facebook page.

At that time, Facebook blamed a technical error and apologized for any offense caused.