Facebook said it has banned all remaining accounts linked to the Myanmar military on Thursday, citing the junta’s use of deadly force against anti-coup demonstrators.
The move, which takes effect immediately, applies to the military and entities controlled by the armed forces on both Facebook and Instagram.
It also bans “military-linked commercial entities” from advertising on the platforms.
“Events since the February 1 coup, including deadly violence, have precipitated a need for this ban,” the social media giant said in a statement.
“We believe the risks of allowing the Tatmadaw on Facebook and Instagram are too great,” it added, using the Myanmar name for the country’s armed forces.
The junta has steadily increased its use of force against a massive and largely peaceful civil disobedience campaign demanding Myanmar’s army leaders relinquish power.
Three anti-coup protesters have been killed in demonstrations, while a man patrolling his Yangon neighbourhood against night arrests was also shot dead.
Facebook said its ban was intended to prevent Myanmar’s generals “from abusing our platform”.
The military has used Facebook to boost its claims that voter fraud marred an election last November after ousted civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi’s party won in a landslide.
Since seizing power, the junta has arrested hundreds of anti-coup protesters, ordered nightly internet blackouts and banned social media platforms — including Facebook — in an effort to quell resistance.
Thursday’s announcement follows Facebook’s earlier decision to kick off a page run by the regime’s “True News” information service after the tech giant accused it of inciting violence.
Pages for government offices now run by the junta remain unaffected.
“This ban does not cover government ministries and agencies engaged in the provision of essential public services,” the company said. “This includes the Ministry of Health and Sport, and the Ministry of Education.”
In recent years, hundreds of army-linked pages have been blocked by Facebook after the social media giant came under heavy criticism for its ineffective response to malicious posts in the country.
Junta chief Min Aung Hlaing and other top brass were booted from the platform in 2018, a year after a military-led crackdown forced around 750,000 members of the Rohingya Muslim community to flee into neighbouring Bangladesh.
Facebook admitted that year it had failed to do enough to prevent the incitement of violence in Myanmar.
“We can and should do more,” Facebook executive Alex Warofka said at the time.
Tens of thousands of Thai pro-democracy protesters rallied across Bangkok Saturday, defying an emergency decree banning gatherings for a third consecutive day to demand the resignation of the prime minister and reform of the powerful monarchy.
Police had used water cannon against peaceful demonstrators on Friday but protestors said they were not cowed by the escalation in tactics.
“I’m concerned for my safety but if I don’t come out, I have no future,” said business student Min, 18, equipped with a helmet and gas mask as she arrived in Bangkok’s northern Lat Phrao district on Saturday, one of several protest venues across the city.
Flooding a massive intersection, protestors raised a three-finger salute adopted from the dystopian “Hunger Games” films as passing vehicles honked in support and flashed a thumbs-up at the mostly black-clad protesters.
Across the Chao Phraya river, thousands rallied in the western Wongwian Yai district chanting “Long live the people, down with dictatorship!”, while in southeastern Udomsuk protesters brought busy traffic to a standstill.
Carrying signs saying “Stop hurting people,” protesters in the three locales numbered in the tens of thousands at the peak, according to AFP reporters on the scene.
But police estimated a far lower turnout, putting the total crowd size at demonstrations across the capital at 16,000. Demonstrations also took place in more than a dozen cities across the country.
For the mostly-young protesters, Friday’s Bangkok crackdown was a big learning curve, said Aim, whose friends were blasted with stinging liquid when police fired water cannon.
“We had no armour, just umbrellas,” said the 25-year-old public servant, grasping a pair of goggles.
“I’m ready to fight,” said 20-year-old Tortor, carrying a backpack stuffed with a gas mask.
But unlike the previous day, police did not intervene and the protestors dispersed by 8:00pm as instructed by organisers, who vowed to “reunite again” Sunday.
Prime Minister Prayut Chan-O-Cha announced Friday an emergency decree banning gatherings of more than four people would be imposed for at least a month.
The former army chief, who masterminded a coup in 2014 before being voted into power last year in an election protesters say was rigged in his favour, also rebuffed calls for his resignation.
– ‘You’re a tyrant’ – At least 65 protesters have been arrested since Tuesday, Thai lawyers for Human Rights told AFP Saturday, as authorities escalated a crackdown on months of slowly building unrest.
The latest came Saturday night of prominent activist Panupong “Mike” Jadnok, who was arrested by plainclothes police after he left a rally at a Bangkok university.
Two other activists were arrested Friday under a rarely used law banning “violence against the queen” after they joined a group Wednesday that surrounded a royal motorcade carrying Queen Suthida, flashing a pro-democracy salute as the car drove by.
Both men, one of whom was released on bail Saturday, could face life in prison if convicted.
At least three protesters sustained slight injuries and five officers were admitted to the police hospital in Friday’s clashes, authorities said.
Activist Tattep “Ford” Ruangprapaikitseree, released Saturday after his detention the night before, took to Facebook to condemn the use of violence against unarmed protesters.
“The government is no longer legitimate. Prayut Chan-O-Cha, you’re a tyrant,” he said in a livestreamed video.
The government insisted the use of force had been lawful to stop those trying to “create divisions” in the country.
“There was no victory or defeat for either side. It’s a defeat for all Thais,” government spokesman Anucha Burapanchaisri said in a statement.
– Royal reminder – The pro-democracy movement is making an unprecedented challenge to the kingdom’s powerful monarchy.
Protesters are demanding the abolition of a strict royal defamation law, which carries jail sentences of up to 15 years per charge, and for the monarchy to stay out of politics.
The institution currently wields enormous influence and is flanked by an arch-royalist military and billionaire clans.
Since ascending the throne in 2016, King Maha Vajiralongkorn has taken personal control of the palace’s vast fortune — worth an estimated $60 billion — and moved two army units under his direct command.
The king has yet to address the civil unrest directly, but during a ceremony broadcast on Friday, he told his subjects that Thailand “needs people who love the country, people who love the institution of the monarchy”.
The government insists the reforms to the royal family are off-limits, but this position was becoming untenable, said International Crisis Group analyst Matthew Wheeler.
“The degree of repression necessary to effectively reinstate the prohibition, including online, would tarnish both the government and the monarchy.”
The unrest in Thailand garnered worldwide interest, with “Mob October 17” — referring to the Bangkok protests — taking the number one hashtag globally on Saturday with almost three million tweets.
Fast asleep, swaddled in a towel and snug in a pink beanie, a baby born during a pandemic in a Thai hospital needs one last item to ensure its health — a face shield.
Bangkok hospitals are using the shields on newborns in their maternity wards to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. Thailand has detected 2,613 cases of the virus, with 41 deaths — a relatively low number despite being the first country outside China to record an infection.
Bangkok is now under an effective lockdown — silencing the usually boisterous and boozy Thai new year Songkran festival this week — while an overnight curfew has kept all but essential vehicles off the streets.
Extraordinary measures have also been rolled out at Praram 9 Hospital, where newborns are being fitted with face shields, a precaution taken at other maternity wards across the capital.
The tiny face guards have been designed by the hospital for use when the baby makes its first journey home.
Several small bombs exploded across Bangkok on Friday, rattling the Thai capital as it hosted a regional summit attended by US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and leaving four people wounded but not disrupting the diplomatic event.
Thailand, which has a grim history of political violence, remains deeply divided after a controversial March election returned a junta to power as a civilian government.
Prime Minister Prayut Chan-O-Cha, who led the junta, blamed the bombs on “ill-intended people inciting violence” to “destroy peace and the country’s image”, while top Association of Southeast Asian Nation (ASEAN) diplomats and their US and Chinese counterparts are in town.
Small devices — believed to be so-called “ping pong bombs” around the size of a table tennis ball — exploded at several locations across the city, none close to the summit venue.
Urging the public not to panic, Prayut said security had been tightened across the capital.
The blasts appeared to be symbolic attacks aimed at embarrassing the government during the major summit but not designed to cause mass casualties.
“Three people received slight injuries from shrapnel,” said Renu Suesattaya, director of Suanluang district where the first bombs were reported.
“I received a report that they are ‘ping pong bombs’ hidden in bushes by the road.”
An emergency service hotline later said a fourth person had been hospitalised.
Two further explosions shattered glass near a well-known downtown skyscraper, emergency police added.
Bomb disposal experts were deployed around the Mahanakorn Tower — owned by the King Power group that counts Leicester City football club among its assets.
– ‘Democratic fold’ –
The bombings took place just before a keynote speech by America’s top diplomat Pompeo, in which he praised Thailand for rejoining the “democratic fold” after five years of outright junta rule.
Thailand’s government urged the media to avoid speculation on the motive for the bombings.
“We do not know yet how many people are involved,” deputy prime minister Prawit Wongsuwon told reporters.
The blasts come weeks after former junta leader Prayut was inaugurated as a civilian prime minister, sparking outcry among many pro-democracy supporters in a kingdom scored by divisions.
The junta manoeuvred itself back into power with the help of a fully appointed senate stacked with army loyalists and an electoral system its critics say was designed to limit the success of the pro-democracy parties.
A slew of court cases since then targeting an emergent anti-military group have rankled government critics, especially younger voters.
The older “Red Shirt” pro-democracy group has also reacted with outrage to the election but has so far remained off the streets with the army seemingly in an unassailable position.
Mass protests, coups, and short-lived governments have defined Thailand’s recent history, which is peppered with deadly bombings and shootings linked to politics, often by shadowy forces that are never held accountable for their crimes.
Thailand’s last hosting of ASEAN in 2009 was also overshadowed by unrest.
Then, “Red Shirt” protesters smashed their way into the summit venue in the resort city of Pattaya demanding elections.
Pandemonium ensued, with a number of leaders having to be rescued from a hotel roof by Thai army helicopters while others fled by boat.
Thailand is also fighting a long-running insurgency in its Muslim-majority southernmost provinces, which occasionally spreads outside the conflict area.
Paul Chambers, a political analyst at Naresuan University, said regardless of who the perpetrators are “they are trying to delegitimise, discredit and destabilise the Thailand summit and embarrass Thailand as hosts.”
Troops have also been asked to inspect factories across the country.
On Thursday drones dispersed water to help clear the air of the harmful microscopic particles known as PM2.5 — a tactic that drew scepticism and derision from Thai social media users.
Bangkok governor Aswin Kwanmuang compounded the sense of frustration by calling on “all sectors” to find a solution.
“I don’t know everything, so I’m inviting everyone to help,” he said Thursday, in response to questions from reporters about the effectiveness of the drones.
“If we do nothing, people will criticise us for not taking any action.”
His plea comes a day after he declared Bangkok a “control area”, closing hundreds of schools until Friday and announcing a ban on cars that use diesel and burning of any kind within the city.
Violators run the risk of three-month jail sentences and fines.
The lingering pall is due to exhaust fumes from traffic, the burning of dead crops, and pollution from factories getting trapped in the city.
Junta leader Prayut Chan-O-Cha on Wednesday stepped up the rhetoric, appealing to Bangkok residents to carpool and for the army to “check” factories in all 76 provinces.
“I will ask the army to go and check every factory…and directly report to me,” the premier said.
“People have complained that I don’t do this, I don’t do that, and children are coughing until blood comes out.”
Bangkok’s dangerous air pollution makes it vital for the government to take “decisive action”, said UN Environment’s regional coordinator for chemicals, waste and air quality Kakuko Nagatani-Yoshida.
She said a short-term solution would be to shut down the most severe factory polluters, but that ultimately “factories will have to convert to cleaner technology and open burning of waste must be stopped.”
Authorities remain tense over growing gripes about the haze and the government’s risible response, which has started to cloud political debate and worry officials about its impact on tourism during the high season.
Thai police on Thursday announced the arrest of a man for allegedly posting “fake news” online after he said a woman had died from the airborne particles.
Charged under the Computer Crime Act, 36-year-old Wattana Pitanwattanathitikul will face up to five years in jail if convicted.
“This message not only caused panic among members of the public, but it could also cause economic losses in terms of tourism,” said police spokesman Colonel Siriwat Deephor.
Toxic smog forced hundreds of Bangkok schools to close Wednesday, as authorities struggle to manage a pollution crisis that has stirred widespread health fears and taken on a political edge just weeks before elections.
The Thai capital has been shrouded in murky haze for weeks, sparking social media criticism of the uneven response by the government and prompting rare scenes of residents donning masks on streets and on public transport.
Reasons given for the lingering pall include exhaust from traffic, unfettered construction, the burning of crop stubble, and pollution from factories getting trapped in the city.
Authorities have seeded clouds to provoke rain, sprayed overpasses with water to catch micro-pollutants and even asked people not to burn incense sticks and paper during Chinese New Year celebrations.
The measures so far have drawn derision from many Bangkok residents, while stocks of pollution masks have run out in many shops.
But on Wednesday, the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration stepped up its health warnings, ordering all 437 city-controlled public schools to close from lunchtime through Friday, designating 1,500 square kilometres (580 square miles) of the city a “control area”.
“The situation will be bad until February 3 to 4, so I decided to close schools,” said Bangkok governor Aswin Kwanmuang, adding he hoped the move would also empty the road of cars on the school run.
Three to four of the city’s districts are “severely hit with smog”, he added.
A spokesperson for the prime minister’s office said private and vocational schools would be closed as well, but did not give a number.
– ‘Public health crisis’- At a downtown Bangkok school where parents arrived early to pick up their children, pupils said they knew about the risks posed by the dangerous pollutant particles, known as PM 2.5.
“I use a mask wherever I go,” said 12-year-old Chaiwawut Benpalee. “It will not affect us now, but it will in the future.”
Fleets of drones are set to be deployed to disperse sugary liquid solution to help clear the air of microscopic particles.
It is not clear how effective that will be given the scale of the smog cloaking the city.
Aswin also said City Hall may soon issue a warning against exercising in parks.
Air Visual, an independent online air quality index (AQI) monitor, on Wednesday, pegged Bangkok at the “unhealthy” level of 171, up from 156 mid-month.
“It’s a public health crisis,” said Tara Buakamsri, Greenpeace country director for Thailand.
Measurements of harmful particulates are higher than some cities in China but well below the Indian capital New Delhi.
Siwatt Pongpiachan, a professor of environmental science at the National Institute of Development Administration (NIDA), said that while the cold dry climate was part of the problem the government should “think seriously” about congestion measures limiting the number of cars on the road.
– Pollution politics – The battle against smog comes during Thailand’s key tourist season, with the Chinese New Year getaway looming, in a country where earnings from foreign visitors make up around a fifth of the economy.
Edward Huang, a 28-year-old tourist from Taiwan who was wearing a mask, said visitors may be deterred from trips to Bangkok.
“The air is just so bad,” he told AFP.
The haze is also starting to seep into the political conversation.
Thailand is set to hold an election on March 24, the first since the military took over in a 2014 coup.
“I don’t see serious measures being taken,” tweeted Chaturon Chaisang, a key member of the Thai Raksa Chart party, urging more to be done beyond the school closures.
His party, closely linked to the politically powerful Shinawatra clan, has been quick to launch a “measure the pollution” app, while other parties have handed out masks — leaving the ruling junta appearing flat-footed in its response.
De-Royals FC from Lagos will represent Nigeria at the 2016 Five-A-side World Championship finals in Bangkok schedule for March 2 to 6 in Bangkok, Thailand.
At the final of the National Football Fives tournament, which was played at the Campos Mini Stadium in Lagos Island, defending champions De-Royals successfully retained the title they won last year after beating Ago FC of Ogun State via penalties.
Over 1,000 teams from different parts of the country registered to compete in the six geo-political zones of Nigeria and from the regional qualifiers 16 teams qualified to compete in Lagos for the title and the winner ultimately picked to represent Nigeria at the 2016 F5WC.
The Lagos team was stunned early on in the first half when Ago FC opened scoring against the run of play, But De-Royals levelled up the score a few minutes before the end of first half.
The Second Half was a delight for the neutrals, as both teams gave it their all, but it eventually ended 1-1 and it was down to penalties which was won by the De-Royals FC.
Mr Bayo Akande of FiveSports, the organisers of the event said: “Our plan is to grow football fives in Nigeria, We intend to take it to such lofty heights that it would become the most popular form of football in the world.
“We brought the Amputee Soccer players here today for an exhibition game just so we can show the world a snippet of what we have planned for five a-side football”, the Lagos FA under 13 boys and girls and the under 15 boys have also shown to the world what they are capable of, this is just a tip of the iceberg as we reveal our long-term plans for five-a-side football going forward.
“We also would like to thank our friends in the media who have been of immense help to this Fives tournament since hit the road last in search of the The best Five A-Side team in Nigeria. We must commend all the state FA’s we have worked with on this project,” he said
Akande Also used the opportunity to thank the Nigeria Football Federation and the Office of the Senior Special Adviser On Sports for backing the Football Fives Initiative.
Kabiru Nasiru of De-Royal FC was voted the Most Valuable player and his seven goals at the National finals was good enough to also give him the Golden Boot award.
Thailand’s ailing king, Bhumibol Adulyadej, has made a rare public appearance.
In a television footage released on Monday by the palace, he is seen swearing in judges at a Bangkok hospital where he has been staying.
He has received treatment for a number of ailments including a lung infection.
The health of the 88-year-old monarch is of public concern as he is widely revered and seen as an arbiter in the country’s divided political arena.
The King, who is the world’s longest serving monarch, was last seen in September in a video released by the palace.
King Bhumibol has been in and out of hospitals for the past few years and has had operations to remove his gallbladder and to treat hydrocephalus; an excessive build-up of fluid on the brain.
He was readmitted to Siriraj Hospital in Bangkok in June, shortly after he was discharged.
The King’s popularity stems partly from his long reign, but he is also seen as a pillar of stability in Thailand which has been wracked by political strife in recent years and is currently governed by a military-led government.
Strict lese majeste laws ban any criticism of him or the royal family.
Police in Bangkok say they have arrested one of the suspects in the bombing that killed 20 people earlier this month.
He was found after Police raided an apartment in a northern suburb of the capital on Saturday afternoon and discovered possible bomb-making materials that could have been used in the August 17 attack in Bangkok’s bustling commercial heart.
Police would not confirm where the suspect was from but said he was a foreign national and would be charged initially with possession of illegal explosive materials and held at a military facility.
After the August 17 blast, police had released a sketch of the man seen on security camera footage leaving a rucksack on a bench and walking away.
The suspect wearing a yellow T-shirt on the back of a motorbike taxi leaving the scene.
The blast happened at 7pm near the Erawan Hindu shrine in the downtown Chidlom district, a shopping hub popular among tourists.
The bomb tore through the crowded Erawan Shrine, one of the country’s top tourist attractions and close to high-end hotels and malls, killing 20 people and wounding scores more.
Among the dead were 14 foreigners, including seven from mainland China and Hong Kong, in an attack the military government said was intended to be a strike at Thailand’s troubled economy.
Many of those killed were tourists, including people from China or Hong Kong. They also included Vivian Chan, 19, a British law student who was a Hong Kong resident. At least 117 people were wounded, some of whom lost limbs.