● Social Media Monitoring
The Burma Human Rights Network (BHRN) monitored the hate speech and fake news that appeared on the social media sites Facebook and Telegram during May 2023 and recorded 24 such posts on the two sites. These posts mostly target the members of minority religions in Myanmar, including the members of the Islamic and Christianity faiths.
The accusations against the Organisation of Islamic States
Several social media users in Myanmar have spread hate messages against the Organization of Islamic State (OiC), which has a membership of 57 Islamic countries across the world. In the monitoring by BHRN, it was found that the comments on OiC on social media are based on unsubstantiated information and facts.
One post seen in May accused OiC of planning to occupy Myanmar by trying to create a new Muslim ethnic group by using the Bengali Muslims in Northern Rakhine State. It also accused the US government as well as Mr George Soros, who leads a US-based philanthropic group the Open Society Foundation and OiC of collaborating in the attack against the Myanmar military and trying to wipe out Buddhism in Myanmar.
Another post said OiC’s strategy was to destroy the Buddhist literature and culture as well as the values and culture of the Myanmar people. The obvious intention of these posts is to defame the countries and international organisations that are critical of the Burmese military regime. And they intend to divert the attention of the people of Myanmar who vehemently oppose the military dictatorship. And to use religious sentiment to create a division among the members of a different faith who joined hands in their struggle against the military regime.
Hate Messages against the members of the Rohingya Muslim communities
Several social media posts were seen during May which targeted Rohingya Muslim minority people in Myanmar. These posts were discriminatory in nature against the Rohingya community. One post said more Rohingya Muslims have died compared to other communities during cyclone Mocha, which struck Rakhine State in mid-May. The posts which were seen on the social media sites of the extremist elements, who mostly support the military regime said the cyclone has hit across Rakhine State, however, more Rohingya people were killed it was because of their past misdeeds.
Another post said Rohingya people were creating drama about their fate in the aftermath of the cyclone to win sympathy and assistance. These posts accused Rohingya Muslims of entering Myanmar illegally.
There were several posts which used derogatory words against the Rohingya victims. A post on the site of a pro-military lobbyist Sandi Myint Aung, which was seen on the Telegram page said, “There is no such thing as Rohingya in Myanmar you idiots, they are illegal immigrants, they do not deserve to be called as human beings”.
Another one on the Facebook page the name of Ko Lin said illegal migration, misguiding ethnic identity and asking for autonomy are the phenomena of Islamisation.
Another post seen on the site of Yan Naing Magway on Facebook warned against issuing citizenship to Rohingya Muslims, the post said "If we grant citizenship to every Bengali who came into the country illegally, they will even get the right to vote on the country’s constitution and can become eligible to stand in the elections for the parliament. I am so apprehensive of my motherland,” the post said. Such posts are designed to support the military regime’s policy to deny citizenship rights to Rohingya Muslims.
Using ambiguous and derogatory terms such as Jihardist, Kular and non-pork eaters- is used against Muslims on social media sites.
Several social media posts were seen during May 2023 which are aimed at spreading Islamophobia among the people of Myanmar. Most of such messages were seen in the posts on the social media sites of ultra-nationalists. These posts described Muslims in coded words like Kular, non-pork eaters as well as Islamization and Jihad.
These posts described the people's defense forces (PDF) which are fighting against the military regime as pro-Islamic. One post said, "These non-pork eater PDF groups will establish their territory and will claim it as a separate territory for them”. Another post said “These non-pork eaters are spread across the country and put Myanmar under their strategic target. Currently, they may not operate like jihadists, as they are collaborating with Buddhist traitors. They are collaborating to put trouble on the country”.
Another post said the drive for Islamisation could not be resisted even by the stronger countries in Europe " So how a country like Myanmar where there are many stupid people's lives could resist such an attempt? the post said. “Jihad means to spread the radical Islamic idea across the country," it added. These posts are designed to portray Muslims as a threat to the country and also attempt to create division among the opposition PDF forces where the members of all religions are collaborating in their struggle against the military regime.
Hate speech and fake news targeting the members of the Christian religion
There were also several posts that include hate messages and fake news targeting the members of Christian religions. They were widely seen on the Facebook and Telegram pages. One post on the Facebook page of a monk Ashin Wisarrina Mahathay said the Mocha cyclone, which hit Myanmar during mid-May, was worst affected in the northern Rakhine State, a majority Muslim area, and Kachin State, a majority Christian area. The post said it highlighted the fact that these two religions need to address their internal problems.
Another post attacking Christians includes criticism of a Buddhist female actress for marrying a Christian. The post by a nationalist monk said “ Aye Thaung (the actress) recently got married to a Christian and she tried to pretend as if she was not a member of the Christian faith. Another celebrity a doctor and vocalist Chit Thu Wai has put up an anti-Buddhist post on Facebook in collaboration with her father. We do not have faith in the actress who is non-Buddhist,” the post said. This kind of post is a blatant attempt to defame those who belong to the members of minority religions.
The Burma Human Rights Network (BHRN) has recorded 18 posts on the two social media sites Facebook and Telegram during May 2023, which include hate messages against the members of the minority religions in Myanmar, particularly Muslims and Christians. Most of these posts are based on unsubstantiated facts and information. The posts on Facebook were liked by 3228 other users of the social media site and shared by 1498 users of the site. On Telegram such posts were seen on the channels with the total number of subscribers was 863000 and among them, 36200 have viewed the posts.
● Printed Media Monitoring
The Burma Human Rights Network (BHRN) in its monitoring of the print media found that two publications consistently publish articles that attack the members of the minority relations and these articles are based on unsubstantiated facts. The two publications are Guardian Journal, whose publisher is Win Ko Ko Latt, an ultra-nationalist and a founding member of the now-defunct pro-Buddhist organisation the Association for the Protection of Race and Religion (Ma Ba Tha in Burmese acronym). Another one is Bullet Journal published by a company owned by a former military General and an anti-Islamic campaigner Bullet Hla Swe. These two publications combined have published seven such articles with hate messages against Muslims during May 2023.
Hate Speech against Rohingya Muslims.
The two publications Guardian and Bullet journals which consistently are publishing the articles with blatant attacks on the members of minority religions in Myanmar continued to do so during May. These articles mostly target the Rohingya Muslims in Northern Rakhine State.
They include an article published in volume 5 no 10 of Bullet Journal, with the title “The issues of Bengali (who are called by Rohingya people by the international community) refugees in Bangladesh and the threat of foreign interference in Myanmar’s internal affairs”. The article was written by commentator Sun Ye, it includes attacks on the pro-Rohingya activists. It said “These activists who are pushing for the repatriation of Bengali are dangerous they are trying to bring these people back and trying to gain recognition of a fake ethnic group and then ask for citizenship for them. I am highlighting their plan before they succeed in it”
Another article published in volumes 5 and no 12 of the Bullet Journal also called for denying citizenship rights to the Rohingya people. In the article titled "Mocha, Bengali and Thai elections” the columnist Sit Nyein said, “There is a plan to create a new name for Bengali who came into Myanmar from Bangla region as Rohingya, who are pretending to exist since the beginning of the world, must be vehemently opposed, also we need to oppose such attempts to grant them citizenship to those who are using a fake ethnic identity”.
Another pro-nationalist publication Guardian in its recent publication said Rohingya Muslims are violating the laws of Myanmar and trying to create unrest in the country. The article with the title “The historical facts about the existence of Gurkha in Myanmar” was published in volume 2 no 29 of the Guardian Journal and it was written by a columnist Dr Myo Aung. It said, “Until these Bengali illegal immigrants stop floundering the country’s laws, oppose the government and try to incite terror, they shall not have a right to get citizenship rights”.
Accusations against the Organisation of Islamic States (OiC)
The two publications Guardian and the Bullet Journals are run by pro-military lobbyists. And they are trying to create a negative impression against the Muslims in Myanmar to perpetuate military rule in Myanmar. In their attacks against Muslims in Myanmar, these publications also target the OiC for supporting a process to transform Myanmar into an Islamic State, which OiC and the Muslim groups in Myanmar have described as “preposterous”.
Two such articles were published in the Bullet Journal in its May 2023 edition. The one written by Maung Yoe which was published in volume 5 no 9 of the Bullet journal accused OiC of supporting a pro-Rohingya militant group the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA). The article titled “Who is forcing Rohingya who want to come back to Myanmar not to do so”. It said “ARSA is getting support from the powerful countries and organisations who have strong financial and human resources. They are implementing a plan to call for citizenship for Rohingya Muslims. These groups are increasing their demands to recognise an ethnic group [Rohingya] that has never existed in Myanmar. These attempts have become more widespread after 2017 incidents in Rakhine State”.
Similarly, an article published in volume 5 number 9 of Bullet Journal accused OiC of trying to transform Myanmar, India and Thailand into Muslim countries. The article with the title “ If I may say a true historic fact about fake news” written by columnist Thakatho Myat Thu said,” The 57 members OiC which include the oil-rich Gulf States are trying to ignite conflict in Rakhine State as a part of their intention to transform India, Myanmar and Thailand into Islamic countries so that the entire circumference of the globe will become the Muslim countries. That is their inappropriate greed,” the article said.