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YouTube Removes Myanmar Army Channels; UN to Meet on Crisis

YouTube removed five channels run by Myanmar's military for violating its guidelines, it announced Friday, as demonstrators defied growing violence by security forces and staged more anti-coup protests ahead of a special U.N. Security Council meeting on the country's political crisis.

YANGON, Myanmar (AP) — YouTube removed five channels run by Myanmar's military for violating its guidelines, it announced Friday, as demonstrators defied growing violence by security forces and staged more anti-coup protests ahead of a special U.N. Security Council meeting on the country's political crisis.

YouTube said it is watching for any further content that might violate its rules. It earlier pulled dozens of channels as part of an investigation into content uploaded in a coordinated influence campaign.

The decision by YouTube followed Facebook's earlier announcement that it has removed all Myanmar military-linked pages from its site and from Instagram, which it also owns.

The escalation of violence by security forces has put pressure on the world community to act to restrain the junta, which seized power on Feb. 1 by ousting the elected government of Aung San Suu Kyi.

Large protests against military rule have occurred daily in many cities and towns. Security forces escalated their crackdown this week with greater use of lethal force and mass arrests. At least 18 protesters were shot dead on Sunday and 38 on Wednesday, according to the U.N. Human Rights Office. More than 1,000 people have been arrested, the independent Assistance Association for Political Prisoners said.

Protests continued in the country's biggest cities, Yangon and Mandalay, and elsewhere on Friday, and were again met by force from police. Gunfire was heard in some areas. Twenty-six-year-old Zaw Myo was fatally shot in Mandalay while he and other residents sought to protect a march by a group of engineers.

Many cases of targeted brutality have been captured in photos and videos that have circulated widely on social media. Videos have showed security forces shooting people at point-blank range and chasing down and savagely beating demonstrators.

The United States called the images appalling, the U.N. human rights chief said it was time to "end the military's stranglehold over democracy in Myanmar," and the world body's independent expert on human rights in the country, Tom Andrews, urged Security Council members to watch the videos before their closed-door consultations on Friday.

While many abuses are committed by police, there is even greater concern about military forces being deployed in cities across the country that are notorious for decades of brutal counter-insurgency tactics and human rights abuses.

In Yangon, members of the army's 77th Light Infantry Division have been deployed during anti-coup protests. The 77th was also deployed in Yangon in 2007 to suppress anti-junta protests, firing upon protesters and ramming them with trucks, witnesses told Human Rights Watch.

The 99th Light Infantry Division has also been deployed, including in Mandalay. It is infamous for its counter-insurgency campaigns against ethnic minorities across the country, including spearheading the response that led to a brutal crackdown that caused more than 700,000 Rohingya Muslims to flee from Rakhine state to Bangladesh. It also has been accused of war crimes in Shan state, another ethnic minority area, in 2016 and early 2017.

A leader of barred lawmakers who say they are the legitimate representatives of the country released a letter to U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres urging the Security Council to help halt the violence and restore the ousted government.

The letter asked for outside parties to help prevent human rights violations, sanctions on military leaders and military-linked businesses, a total arms embargo, and penalties for perpetrators of atrocities.

The letter is signed by Dr. Sasa, who uses one name, on behalf of the Committee Representing Pyidaungsu Hluttaw, Myanmar’s Parliament, which the military has barred from convening. The lawmakers are seeking to have foreign countries and international organizations recognize them in place of the junta.

Any kind of coordinated action at the U.N. will be difficult since two permanent members of the Security Council, China and Russia, are likely to veto it.

Even if the council did take action, U.N. special envoy to Myanmar Christine Schraner Burgener cautioned this week it might not make much difference. She said she warned Myanmar's army that the world's nations and the Security Council "might take huge strong measures."

"And the answer was, 'We are used to sanctions and we survived those sanctions in the past,'" she said. When she also warned that Myanmar would become isolated, Schraner Burgener said, "the answer was, 'We have to learn to walk with only a few friends.'"

The Association of Southeast Asian Nations has urged a halt to violence and the start of talks on a peaceful solution in Myanmar.

The 10-member regional grouping, which includes Myanmar, is constrained from enacting serious measures by a tradition of acting by consensus and reluctance to interfere in each other's internal affairs.

However, one member, Singapore, was outspoken on Friday in criticizing Myanmar's coup.

"It is the height of national shame for the armed forces of any country to turn its arms against its own people," its foreign minister, Vivian Balakrishnan, said in Parliament.

But he also warned that the approach favored by some Western nations, of pressuring Myanmar's generals with sanctions, would not be effective. The U.S., Britain and several other countries have already started to use that approach.

"Despite all our fervor and earnest hopes of reconciliation ... the keys ultimately lie within Myanmar. And there's a limit to how far external pressure will be brought to bear," he said.

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