File photo taken on July 19, 2018, shows Myanmar's Chief Senior General Min Aung Hlaing, commander-in-chief of the Myanmar armed forces. (AFP / Ye Aung Thu)

Myanmar army chief mocked online for short stature in doctored photo

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A photo shared repeatedly on Twitter and Weibo purports to show Myanmar’s army chief General Min Aung Hlaing standing on a blue stool for a group photo with foreign military officials. The posts, shared two days after Myanmar's military seized power in a bloodless coup, prompted some social media users to mock the army chief's height. But the image has been doctored from a photo of Min Aung Hlaing attending a European Union Military Committee meeting in Brussels in 2016.

The image was published here on Weibo on February 3, 2021.

Screenshot captured on February 4, 2021, of the misleading Weibo post

“Standing on the stool for the photo, the short man is the commander-in-chief of the Burmese army, Min Aung Hlaing, who launched Myanmar’s coup,” the Chinese-language caption reads.

“Therefore, we cannot belittle the dwarf; a little body often harbours a great soul.”

Myanmar's military detained de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi and other National League for Democracy (NLD) party leaders in a coup on February 1, 2021. General Min Aung Hlaing was given "legislative, judicial and executive powers", effectively returning Myanmar to military rule after a 10-year experiment with democracy. AFP reported on the coup here.

Min Aung Hlaing justified the coup by alleging widespread voter fraud during November's election. 

International and local observers -- as well as Myanmar's own election monitor -- reported no major issues that might have affected the integrity of the vote.

The image was also posted alongside a similar claim here, here and here on Twitter.

Comments from social media on the posts suggested they were misled by the image, while others suggested it may have been doctored.

“Incredible! Compared with the white general on the left (1.95m-2m by sight), the Burmese coup general is definitely no more than 1.4m. It's impossible for him to carry rifles,” one Chinese-language comment read. 

“Photoshopped? He can’t be self-insulting like that?”

Screenshot captured on February 4, 2021, of the two comments

In fact, the image has been doctored.

A reverse image search on Google, followed by a keyword search, found a similar photo published here on Facebook on November 9, 2016, by Myanmar news website The Irrawaddy.

Below is a screenshot comparison of the image in the misleading Weibo post (L) and the photo published by The Irrawaddy (R):

Screenshot comparison between the image from the misleading Weibo post (L) and the photo published by The Irrawaddy (R)

Another photo in the same Facebook post shows the same military officials from a different angle.

Screenshot captured on February 4, 2021, of another photo posted by The Irrawaddy

Both photos clearly show Min Aung Hlaing posed for the photo without a stool.

The Irrawaddy also published this article with one of the photos from the Facebook post. It is captioned: “The European Union Military Committee meeting in Brussels, Belgium.”

In 2016, Min Aung Hlaing was a guest speaker at the meeting between EU defence chiefs in Brussels held between November 7 and 8, according to a statement by the European Union External Action.

“He explained to the Committee the defence landscape and the military efforts for democracy in his country,” it said.