Tuesday, April 20, 2021

Children of Myanmar junta outed in online campaign, hounded abroad

In Australia, some in the Myanmar community are campaigning for the government to sanction children of members of the junta by freezing their assets or revoking their visas.

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Since the military coup, protesters have launched an online campaign to denounce family members and associates of the junta living abroad.

The aim is to spotlight those living comfortably in democratic nations far from the bloody chaos and violence at home.

An activist group, the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners, claims security forces have killed more than 224 protesters so far.

Organisers say the campaign is a non-violent way to put pressure on the junta to reverse the coup and return Myanmar to democracy.

“The military understands one language. That is pressure,” said Tun Aung Shwe, a member of the Burmese community in Australia and one of a group that went to Canberra to urge the government to sanction people affiliated with the junta.

“Social punishment is effective as it shakes up the junta, getting them to rethink what they are doing,” he said.

Aside from shaming friends, associates, and family of the junta on social media, activists have also created a website, called socialpunishment.com, information from which has been widely shared on Facebook.

The website features more than 120 profiles of people who are accused of failing to speak out against the coup.

It ranks them on a “traitor” scale from elite to low, and there are photographs of the profiled person, details of their lifestyles, and their whereabouts in the world, making it easy for Burmese in those countries to track them down.

There are over 30,000 people from Myanmar living in Australia alone and some of those targeted have had their personal information, phone numbers, places of work, and where they live, published online.

The campaign has raised questions among some participants over the ethics of shaming people online because of the actions of their parents but campaigners say that anger over mass arrests and killings during anti-coup protests outweigh such qualms.

Last week, the US imposed sanctions on two children of Myanmar’s military leader Min Aung Hlaing and six companies they control.

In Australia, some in the Myanmar community are campaigning for the government to sanction children of members of the junta by freezing their assets or revoking their visas.

The campaign to shame the junta is an extension of wider campaign to boycott military run companies, and isolate individuals who back the coup.

This broader campaign, which was inspired by the protest movement, has four pillars: “Don’t sell anything to them”, “Don’t buy anything from them”, “Don’t associate with them” and “We will never forget.”

Bryan Tun, 28, the son of Myanmar’s commerce minister, Pwint San, is working as a doctor in Australia. Though not listed on the website, Tun said he has been abused on social media even though he is a long-time supporter of Suu Kyi’s party, posts messages of support for the protest movement and disagrees with his father politically.

“I have been socially punishing him since this thing happened. I have been openly protesting against him,” he told Reuters.

Despite his experience, Tun said he still believes the online campaign is a valid act of resistance.

“I think it’s one of the very few weapons that the people have,” he told Reuters. “Back home, soldiers are killing people on the streets with guns.”

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