30 September 2023

False: This picture does not show Chinese soldiers helping Myanmar’s military ‘destroy’ the internet

The photo shows PLA Navy soldiers. It was taken in Dec. 2017 during combat drills in the East China Sea. It has nothing to do with the current status of the internet shutdown in Myanmar.

On Feb. 23 a Facebook post in Burmese claimed the accompanying image shows Chinese soldiers who are “destroying” the internet in Myanmar, indicating that these soldiers in the photo are helping Myanmar’s military government control the internet in the country.

The badges on the clothes of a person in the picture are encircled in red, presumably to prove the claim. The post has earned over 21,000 engagements.

The same image appeared on Twitter a few days earlier in English and claimed, “Chinese soldiers technicians arrived and assisting Myanmar Military.”

Another tweet with the same image reads, “Here the confirmation of Chinese soldiers in Myanmar.”

The same image was spreading on Twitter with similar claims.

The claim is false. The picture has nothing to do with the current status of the internet shutdown in Myanmar.

It is a photo taken in 2017 during combat drills in the East China Sea, according to China National Radio (CNR) which reported on the naval exercise.

CNR posted the image on Dec. 7, 2017 on its website.

The South China Morning Post also used the same photo in a story about the East China Sea exercise on Dec. 8, 2017.

Comparison of the images used in the Facebook post and the one on CNR’s website. They are identical.

The badge on the soldier’s arm has the words “中国人民解放军海军” which means “Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Navy”.

Its design matches with the one shown on the official news website for the PLA, 81.cn, with the red and yellow five-pointed star, an iron anchor and golden wheat.

Arm badges of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (Courtesy: 81.cn)

The news reports by the CNR and the SCMP are both about the navy exercise in 2017 and do not mention Myanmar, a country that has no connection to the East China Sea.

Since the military took power in a coup, the country’s internet has been interrupted frequently. The Associated Press reported, for example, the internet access was blocked mainly from 1 a.m. to 9 a.m. in mid-February.

Meanwhile, there have been various rumors about the Myanmar military getting help from the Chinese army. Chen Hai, the Chinese Ambassador to Myanmar denied such allegations in a media interview on Feb. 15.

Annie Lab cannot independently verify whether or not China is helping the military government shutting down the internet intermittently in Myanmar, but this particular picture of Chinese soldiers posted on social media has nothing to do with such claims.

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