The US Embassy in Yangon has come in for public criticism after publishing a Facebook post that suggested it was partnering with a company run by the daughter of the US-sanctioned Myanmar military chief on an event co-sponsored by the embassy.
On Monday evening, the embassy announced on Facebook its co-sponsorship of a concert to be streamed as part of the online Myanmar Music Festival, in which international artists and instructors will collaborate with emerging Myanmar musical artists for a week of intensive training and performances. The concert advertised in the Facebook post is scheduled to be streamed on Dec 18.
So far, so good.
According to an early version of the advertisement for the show that was posted on the embassy’s Facebook page, however, viewers would have to stream the concert from the Facebook page of 7th Sense Creation, a film production company run by Daw Khin Thiri Thet Mon, the daughter of Myanmar military chief Senior General Min Aung Hlaing. The senior general is currently subject to US sanctions over the military’s mass killings of Rohingya, in addition to other actions taken against him.
In an otherwise identical poster for the concert posted on the Facebook page of the Myanmar Music Festival on Tuesday afternoon, the reference to 7th Sense Creation as a media partner had been removed and prospective viewers were directed to the festival’s own website.
Soon after the embassy posted the original advertisement on Facebook, its page was flooded with comments from netizens ridiculing the embassy for working with a company owned by a family member of a general who has been punished by the embassy’s own State Department for alleged human rights abuses.
Some suggested the US was guilty of hypocrisy in working with a company run by a woman whose father is on the sanctions list.
One user simply dropped the comment: “7th Sense?? Shame on U (the US embassy)”. Another wondered “7th Sense… Does it mean if there any tie between the US embassy and military leadership?”
Speaking to The Irrawaddy on Tuesday, the US Embassy distanced itself from 7th Sense Creation and insisted its support for human rights in Myanmar had not changed. “We were not involved in the choice of 7th Sense as a partner and are not a wider sponsor of the festival,” embassy spokesperson Aryani Manring told The Irrawaddy, adding that no US funds were provided to 7th Sense Media.
“The US government supported music and leadership education through Myanmar Music Festival for a diverse group of young people, and the concert is the culmination of that program,” Manring said. “Our policy towards [Snr-Gen] Min Aung Hlaing and his family has not changed.”
U Aung Myo Min, executive director of Equality Myanmar, a Yangon-based human rights advocacy group, told The Irrawaddy that the US Embassy should seriously consider and be mindful of the company’s background.
“Now it’s as if the US is ignoring what they have done by partnering with someone linked to a person they have sanctioned,” he said.
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