Misleading: This photo shows the Karen National Police Force, not the Myanmar Army, protecting protesters

The insignia and logo in the uniforms and caps belonged to the Karen National Police Force, a police unit of an organization seeking autonomy for the Karen ethnic group.

Screenshot of the tweet in question with misleading label

On March 10, a tweet claimed an army in Myanmar provided protection to protesters and described it as the first of its kind.

The tweet contained photos that showed a group of armed men garbed in military uniform as well as people in civilian clothes standing behind them. In what appears to be a march, many of them are holding flags. The tweet has over 300 likes and 100 shares.

Another tweet and Facebook post shared some of the same images with the same claim. Together, these two posts have more than 1,900 engagements.

However, the claim is misleading. These photos do not show the Myanmar army.

The men in uniform belong to the Karen National Police Force (KNPF), the police unit of the Karen National Union (KNU), a political organization seeking autonomy for the Karen ethnic group in Myanmar.

A keyword search using part of the tweet in question in Chinese “緬甸首支為示威民眾提供武裝保護的軍隊” led to another tweet posted two days earlier with the same set of photos, but this post says the troops serve the KNU.

Annie Lab identified the flag in the photos as the Karen national flag used by the KNU, based on its features. The tricolor flag with red, blue and white with nine rays of light at the top left corner is identical to the Karen national flag found on the internet.

The flag shown in the tweeted photo shares a lot of features with the Karen flag, as pointed out with arrows, including a blue-and-red rising sun, blocks in white, red and blue.
A comparison of the flag in the tweet (right) and the one in the photo (left) from a news release about the raising of the Karen flag in 2018.

A search with the keyword “KNU” led to a tweet by Mizzima News on March 8 that links to a video showing KNU armed personnel escorting “Karen teachers and students protesting the coup, near the southern city of Dawei.” Mizzima posted on Facebook that the video was from the AFP.

Dawei Watch, a local media organization, posted a longer video containing the same scenes of the protest on its website.

Both videos from Mizzima and Dawei Watch show one of the men in the tweeted photo wearing a uniform with the same insignia and a cap with the same logo.

Both the man in the video and the photo can be seen with a rifle with the same red pistol grip, a drinking flask holstered on the right side and a hand grenade attached to the strap.

The screenshot of a video from Mizzima and the photo from the tweet show the same armed personnel wearing the same clothes and carrying the same objects.

The screenshot of a video from Mizzima and the photo from the tweet show the same scene of a march, with the identical sign and banner.
A comparison of the photos attached in the tweet (left) and screenshots from a video of Mizzima (right).

A screenshot of one of the frames of the Dawei Watch video showed the insignia up close.

Annie Lab found that it has white rays placed against blue and white, with a yellow star in the middle.

The insignia on the cap, on the other hand, has a star connected to what looked like horns.

News articles about the KNPF we found in Karen News, a news site run by Karen journalists, Frontier Myanmar and Reuters all featured men and women donning uniforms and caps with the same insignia as that of the man in the photo.

Comparison of the screenshot with photos from Karen News (bottom), Reuters (left, middle) and Frontier Myanmar (right, middle) shows the members of the KNPF donning the same cap and uniform with the same insignia.
Comparison of the screenshot with photos from Karen News (bottom), Reuters (left, middle) and Frontier Myanmar (right, middle) shows the members of the KNPF donning the same cap and uniform with the same insignia.

AP News reported that the KNPF escorted about 2,000 protesters near Myitta in Tanintharyi region on March 8. Myitta is a sub-township in the Dawei district.

According to Mizzima, the starting point of the march is a village called Myay Khan Baw. Annie Lab was able to find the village in Tanintharyi Region that matches the name both in English and Burmese through the Myanmar Information Management Unit (MIMU) under the United Nations Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator.

The map shows the village Myay Khan Baw that locates in Dawei Township, Dawei District, Tanintharyi Region.
A map from MIMU shows a village Myay Khan Baw.

The Karen ethnic minority communities live in the southeastern state of Kayin and have sought autonomy. The KNU political organization, which has its own army, has been engaged in a conflict with the military of Myanmar called Tatmadaw for 70 years.

Since the coup in February the KNU has been involved in 200 clashes with the Tatmadaw, according to a report by Just Security at New York University School of Law.