A Facebook campaign in support of Myanmarâ€™s shadow National Unity Government (NUG) ahead of the United Nations General Assembly, when U.N. member states will select the countryâ€™s ambassador, has garnered more than 3 million participants, according to a campaign organizer.
The General Strike Coordination Body (GSCB) launched the â€œAccept NUG, Reject Militaryâ€ campaign on Aug. 9, which called on Facebook users to replace their profile pictures with an image of a person raising the NUG flag in front of the U.N. crest in support of the shadow government and its U.N. Ambassador Kyaw Moe Tun.
As of the weekend, more than 3 million users had added the image to their profile, despite a directive by the military regime for authorities to take legal action against anyone who had done so, Mandalay-based GSCB member Ma Aye Myint told RFAâ€™s Myanmar Service.
â€œOn Aug. 11, the military announced that it would prosecute those who joined the campaign. So, after that announcement, many people started changing their account profiles [to the NUG image],â€ she said.
â€œBefore that, many people did not know they could be tracked down by the authorities because of their profile pictures. But after the military directive,Â they realized they had to change their profiles and then more and more people started doing it.
She added that although the campaign is currently on Facebook, it will soon be added to Twitter to reach more of the international community.
Meanwhile an Australian-based support group has launched a petition campaign online calling for recognition of the NUG by the U.N. General Assembly. According to the group, more than 175,000 international supporters, including former East Timorese President and Nobel Peace Prize winner Jose Ramos-Horta, former U.S. Ambassador to MyanmarÂ Derek Mitchell and Czech diplomat Pavel Fisher, have signed the petition. The campaign aims to obtain 200,000 signatures in seven languages.
The two campaigns are underway to show support for the NUG at the 76th U.N. General Assembly in New York, which on Sept. 14 will elect a government and a permanent delegation to represent Myanmar.
A nine-nation Representation Committee that includes permanent member states the U.S., Russia and China, is to make recommendations to the U.N. General Assembly for a vote on Myanmar.Â The committee is currently chaired by The Maldives and each member state can only vote once, with permanent member states unable to veto, unlike at the U.N. Security Council. If any one country does not agree with the recommendation of the Representation Committee to the U.N. General Assembly,Â all 193 U.N. members will have to cast a ballot.
Ko Harry, a young protest leader from Myanmarâ€™s largest city Yangon, said the GSBC campaign was aimed at regaining the peopleâ€™s elected government and power, after Myanmarâ€™s military seized power from the democratically elected government through a coup on Feb. 1, claiming voter fraud in the countryâ€™s November 2020 ballot.
The junta has yet to produce any evidence of its claims and has violently repressed protests, killing at least 1,007 civilians and arresting 5,759 others, according to the Bangkok-based Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (AAPP).
â€œThe General Strike Coordination Body is now taking the lead to show the world our peopleâ€™s support for the NUG,â€ Ko Harry told RFA.
â€œOur aim is for everyone to take part in helping our government and our people return to power.â€
Political analysts told RFA the campaign is vital, as there is also a possibility that both sides may be rejected and the post left vacant.
Ko Nang Lin, a protest leader and member of the University Alumni Movement, called the GSCB campaign â€œan important turning point for our Spring Revolution.â€
â€œAfter [promoting domestic awareness], the next campaign will seek to unite all people of Myanmar throughout the world and obtain their support to push the governments of the countries where they reside to recognize that crimes against humanity are being committed in Myanmar,â€ he said.
â€œThat could sway their votes in our favor at the U.N.Â We will also continue to push further to get our NUG government and Kyaw Moe Tun recognized when the UN makes its decision.â€
Meanwhile, the junta is preparing to charge 63 celebrities involved in the campaign under the Anti-Terrorism Act.
A directive from the junta appeared on social media on Aug. 11, instructing the military and police to take systematic action against those who had changed their profiles.Â The next day, 63 artists who supported the movement were charged under Section 52 (a) of the Anti-Terrorism Law by the military. It said those who had changed their profiles were supporting the â€œterrorist group NUG,â€ and are â€œspreading propaganda for terrorism.â€
Some of the 63 artists charged are those already charged with â€œdefamation of the militaryâ€ under Section 505 (a) of the Penal Code for protesting the coup.
Nang Lin, a protest leader, said people had joined the campaign in the millions because they want to protest the military in any way they can.
â€œThese are typical tactics from the militaryâ€”they intimidate people with weapons and threaten them with various laws. Now, they are using the charge of associating with illegal terrorist groups,â€ he said.
â€œThis online campaign has awakened an awareness in people about the election of the NUG delegation and itâ€™s a significant blow to the junta. People are involved in any way they can to show their opposition by using â€˜Likesâ€™ or â€˜Commentsâ€™ or â€˜Sharesâ€™ on social media.â€
Myanmar faced a similar situation at the U.N. General Assembly in 2008. At that time, the U.N. Credentials Committee accepted the juntaâ€™s representative instead that of the opposition National Coalition Government of Burma (NCGUB).
NUG radio program
Also on Friday, the NUG launched a 30-minute shortwave radio program called â€œRadio NUG,â€ which it plans to air twice daily at 8:00 a.m. and 8:00 p.m. on 17.71 mhz, according to NUG defense minister U Ye Mon.
Radio NUG was launched in response to the need for â€œemergency communications,â€ as the â€œnext milestone of the Spring Revolution approaches,â€ he said.
The programâ€™s first broadcast included a report on alleged massacres discovered in Sagaing regionâ€™s Kani township, which the NUG said should be classified as war crimes, given that they were allegedly carried out by junta soldiers amid an offensive in the region.
Myanmarâ€™s junta issued a statement on Friday evening through state broadcaster MRTV, saying the Ministry of Information had declared the program and warning that â€œanyone who, without permission, works with, supports or assists it will have action taken against them in accordance with the law.â€
Reported by RFAâ€™s Myanmar Service. Translated by Khin Maung Nyane. Written in English by Joshua Lipes.