Facebook posts falsely claim Thai army chief 'declared war on Myanmar'
Burmese-language posts viewed thousands of times on Facebook are falsely claiming that the head of Thailand's army has "declared war on Myanmar". They feature videos with the same misleading thumbnail that claims he warned the Thai army would seize Myanmar's Karen state, which borders Thailand. But the army chief shown in the videos retired in 2020, and the Thai army told AFP the claim is false.
"If the Myanmar military keeps killing civilians, Thailand will completely seize Karen state. The Thai army chief has declared war on Myanmar," reads Burmese-language text on the thumbnail of a video posted on Facebook here on February 24, 2023.
Myanmar's Karen state, which borders Thailand, has long seen heavy fighting between Myanmar's military and local rebel groups and the violence has worsened since the army seized control of the country in a 2021 coup..
The video, which has been viewed more than 20,000 times, is captioned: "Cannot stand seeing Karen people suffer from war anymore."
Its thumbnail includes photos of Apirat Kongsompong, a former Thai army chief, and Myanmar general Min Aung Hlaing, who has ruled the country since 2021.
The same misleading thumbnail was also used for videos posted elsewhere on Facebook here and here.
The false claim in the thumbnail, however, is completely different to the content of the video.
The public relations team for Thailand's army also told AFP on March 10 that assertions about a war or seizing Karen state are "fake news".
The video itself addresses a range of geopolitical issues from the fighting in Myanmar to the war in Ukraine.
It carries accurate Burmese-language narration and says the Thai army has set up "safe zones" for Myanmar refugees where they can receive shelter, security and humanitarian assistance.
According to monitoring group ACAPS, camps in Thailand are housing more than 90,000 refugees along the Thailand-Myanmar border, with over 80 percent of them from Karen state.
This development has been reported by credible media outlets including the Bangkok Post and Thai-language sites The Reporters and Naewna.
When the video narrator mentions the safe zones for Myanmar refugees at the one-minute mark, a still image of former Thai army chief Apirat Kongsompong is shown.
The same photo of Apirat can be found here in AFP’s archive. It shows him attending an Indo-Pacific Army Chiefs Conference (IPACC) in Bangkok on September 9, 2019.
Apirat retired from the position in 2020.
According to the Bangkok Post, he has since been appointed by Thailand's king as vice-chamberlain of the Bureau of the Royal Household.
The current Thai army chief is General Narongpan Jitkaewtae, who has been in the position since September 2020.
Below is a comparison between former chief Apirat (left) and the current army head, Narongpan (right):
Unrelated video content
The rest of the video is made up of an assortment of still images which also do not support the claims made in the thumbnail.
Photos of a Thai armoured vehicle patrolling the border and a Myanmar military truck in the city of Taungoo appear while the video's narrator is talking about the Thai army setting up safe zones for Myanmar refugees at the 24-second mark.
The image of the armoured vehicle was used in an article by Thailand's Nation TV, while the Myanmar military truck picture was used in an article by Myanmar Now.
Below are screenshot comparisons of the images as they were used in video in the false post (left) and as they appear in the Nation TV and Myanmar Now articles (right):
When the narrator speaks about China abstaining as the United Nations voted to demand Russia immediately and unconditionally withdraw from Ukraine at the two-minute 35-second mark, a photo of China's foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian is shown.
The photo was used on the Chinese foreign ministry website.
When the narrator refers to a speech by Myanmar military chief Min Aung Hlaing during a meeting in Naypyidaw to mark the second anniversary of the 2021 coup at the two-minute 58-second mark, an image of a Russian airbase in Syria is shown.
The photo was used in an article by Syria's North Press Agency.
Below are screenshot comparisons of the images used in the video in the false post (left) and the photos as they were used on the Chinese foreign ministry website and by Syria's North Press Agency (right):