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17 Aug 2023

The Irrawaddy

Myanmar: Telegram alledegly used to identify Junta opponents that leads to arrests

"Telegram Used to Identify Myanmar Junta Opponents", 17 August 2023

At least 16 people were detained in Mandalay from August 9 to 15 after pro-Myanmar-junta Telegram channels shared their photos and addresses.

Among those detained were doctors and teachers who joined the civil disobedience movement (CDM), philanthropists, business owners and a betel nut vendor.

The arrest came after the “Han Nyein Oo” Telegram channel called for the arrest of store owner Daw Myint Myint Than, alleging that she had criticized the regime online.

A Mandalay resident said: “She was apparently arrested for commenting on a news agency story. There is no freedom left.”

A Mandalay-based journalist said: “We have seen an increase in such arrests triggered by Telegram channels. Victims are normally arrested hours after the Han Nyein Oo account calls for their arrest. Recently, masked junta troops raided a tea shop and pub. This is worse than previous military dictatorships.”

RO Telegram Monitoring, a group monitoring pro-junta Telegram channels, said they endanger civilians and lead to arrests and the seizure of property.

Around 19 prominent pro-junta Telegram channels share information about dissidents and approximately 50 other channels spread their information, according to RO Telegram.

U Nay Phone Latt, a spokesman for the civilian National Unity Government, said: “Those Telegram channels are not run by individuals. They are part of a network linked with military intelligence. We have been trying to reveal the entire network.”

The channels share information about people who criticize military rule on social media, mark pro-democracy events and participate in anti-junta activities including protests and strikes.

In an interview with The Irrawaddy in February, Ma Wai Phyo Myint, the head of Access Now in Myanmar, an advocacy group for digital rights around the world, said Telegram has ignored requests from civil society organizations to stop the abuse of the platform in Myanmar.