US slaps export sanctions on Myanmar after protest deaths | News | DW | 05.03.2021
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US slaps export sanctions on Myanmar after protest deaths

The new measures come as YouTube announced that it would remove five military-run channels. The platform said it would ban all pages linked to Myanmar's army, amid reports of online threats and misinformation.

Anti-coup protesters runs from teargas and charging riot police in Mandalay, Myanmar on Wednesday, March 3, 2021

Anti-coup protesters runs from teargas and charging riot police in Mandalay, Myanmar on Wednesday, March 3, 2021

The United States on Thursday tightened export controls on Myanmar, imposing new sanctions in response to the military's violence against pro-democracy demonstrators.

US officials reclassified Myanmar into the same group as Russia and China, implementing restrictions on any exports that could be put to military use. The new regulations will specifically impact exports to Myanmar's ministries of defense and home affairs, along with two state-owned firms, Myanmar Economic Corporation and Myanmar Economic Holding Limited.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the US took the measures "in response to shocking and deadly violence against protesters in Burma."

The Commerce Department "is announcing further restrictions to constrain the Burmese military regime's access to US goods and technology," he wrote on Twitter. "We call for the restoration of democracy in Burma."

Social media grapples with death threats

The new measures come as YouTube announced that it would remove five of Myanmar's military-run channels.

"We have terminated a number of channels and removed several videos from YouTube in accordance with our community guidelines and applicable laws," a YouTube spokeswoman said in a statement.

YouTube is taking measures similar to what Facebook took in February, by banning all pages linked to Myanmar's army, including accounts linked to state network Myanmar Radio and Television (MRTV). 

Additionally, researchers said the military had reverted to TikTok as a platform to induce fear and deliver death threats to protesters. The platform saw a strong rise in downloads after the military banned Facebook in February.

Although TikTok announced it was removing content that incites violence, dozens of videos, which garnered tens of thousands of views, depicted uniformed men, sometimes brandishing guns, threatening to harm protesters.  

Watch video 02:07

Myanmar police fire rubber bullets and stun grenades

Platforms used to spread misinformation

All three platforms — Facebook, YouTube, and TikTok — have been used by the Myanmar government to spread misinformation in tandem with its state-run media.

Facebook drew criticism in 2017 for not doing more to fight misinformation, which helped fan atrocities against the Rohingya Muslim minority.

YouTube had also faced criticism from researchers and civil society groups for a hands-off approach to the Nov. 8 vote, in which the military alleged mass fraud.

Researchers believe that the military will attempt to grow its presence on other platforms to continue making its case for last month's coup.

Watch video 02:09

Myanmar: brutal crackdown continues

Residents report nationwide blackouts

Also on Friday, residents reported that electricity supplies were cut in many parts of the country. Residents of cities from Myitkyina in the north, to the capital Naypyitaw reported losing power in the early afternoon.

Myanmar has been facing widespread and often bloody demonstrations since February 1, when military forces detained elected de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

The coup brought to a halt Myanmar's decade-long push towards democratic governance. Despite several deaths, protesters were still expected to take to the streets to call for a return to democracy on Friday.

lc/msh (AP, AFP, Reuters)