Pancelo and Zalonegyi Case Study

In the Pancelo store and Zalonegyi case study, the highlights showcased on social media platforms such as Facebook and Telegram were oppressed and threatened by military councils and lobbies. This emphasizes how platforms have become complicit in capturing instances of injustice.

March 10, 2023

Zalonegyi is supported by the revolutionaries, as mentioned by the military lobby Telegram pages. On the morning of March 9, they announced the intention to arrest Zalonegyi, accusing him of selling to the People’s Defense Forces.

Han Nyein Oo Telegram, a significant channel of the military lobby, started to arrest the owners of the Zonggyi shop. Shortly after this statement, the Military Council’s army proceeded to enter and effectuate the arrest.

As a result, some media outlets have reported that owners of brands currently displayed in Pensello stores in the United States are also fleeing. To monitor this case study, The Red Flag has observed and documented the process by the military group, which often makes arrests based on threats.

The beginning of the process: 

Pensello, a well-known supporter of the Spring Revolution, is located in the United States. “Rangoon Grocery Mart,” primarily featuring Burmese food in Sacramento, was opened in 2023, specifically on March 7. Being one of the prominent contributors to fundraising for revolution support projects, the store’s opening has stirred considerable controversy among social media users.

Amid these critical disputes, the revolutionary donation money issue is undeniably at the forefront, with accusations of placing boycotted brands in stores. One of the contentious events involved the controversy surrounding the Zalonegyi, a boycotted item. Regarding the Zalonegyi, an apology was issued, clarifying that it was not a boycotted item. Supporters also expressed their views under the apology account, mentioning that Zalonegyi was a special item cherished by revolutionary soldiers. (Note: The link to the Zalonegyi’s account has been taken down.)

After these incidents, on March 9th, the military-supporting Telegram channels, led by the Han Nyeung-oo Telegram channel at 8:32 in the morning, initiated actions against all the sellers of brands that were featured in Pensello’s shop.

Incentives to Arrest:

According to The Red Flag’s observation, Han Nyein Oo, Ka Ka Han, Kyaw Swar, Shwe ba, DGF21News, and Athan Channels a total of 10 posts promoting arrests were made on their channels.

On the same day, March 9th, Han Nyein Oo’s channel, which initiated advocacy for the arrests, timely posted four updates about the arrest of Zalonegyi.

On the morning of March 10th, Han Nyein Oo’s channel, responsible for those posts, was removed from the Telegram channel, and the links were no longer accessible. However, as The Red Flag could hardly save screenshots from yesterday, you can learn the contents below.

Links

1.  https://t.me/Han777999888/1500 (Arrest call initiated: 8:32 AM.) 

2.  https://t.me/Han777999888/1532 ( Arrested by the police from Mandalay at 12:07 PM.)

3.  https://t.me/Han777999888/1537 (Mandalay Zalonegyi garage raid – 1:05 p.m)

4.  https://t.me/Han777999888/1568 (Zalonegyi garage raid from Yangon – 5:16 p.m)

Military lobby accounts have launched a campaign to arrest and investigate not only Zalonegyi but also all the food businesses displayed in Pancello’s grocery stores. Consequently, some brand owners of the products showcased at the Pancelo store have reportedly been evading, as reported by certain independent media outlets.

Media Presentations:

It has been observed that at least seven media outlets reported on the arrest of the owner of Zalonegyi and some of the garages. These media outlets presented the news with accompanying photos, statements, and comments from residents.

The RFA news agency reported that Zalonegyi, the stakeholder, declined to comment on the news. Additionally, the Delta News Agency reported that some owners of the brands displayed in Pancelo’s shop are currently evading authorities due to the search and arrest operations conducted by the military council.”

The media outlets that presented were:- 

1. Mandalay Free Press – MFP

2. Myanmar Now

3.  RFA Burmese

4.  Delta News Agency

5.  People’s Spring

6.  Mizzima

7.  Burma Associated Press

As of the evening of March 10, the military council has not released any information regarding the arrest.

People’s Opinions

There are various reactions among the people regarding the incident of selling items in her shop, with no apparent connection to any criminal activity.

Comments from Zin Thaw Naing

Min Khant Aung’s post

Post from ဟင်းချက်နည်းမျိုးစုံ

Summary

  • Military lobbies conduct on-site investigations without seeking evidence, relying on the monitoring of celebrities’ social media posts. Specifically, the Military Council’s management mechanism is involved in this lobby, acquiring information solely through social media monitoring. The lobby engages in social media commentary amid disputes between revolutionary forces. Notably, all arrests are triggered by capturing screenshots of alleged incriminating information.
  • The military is attempting to seize power on the ground and suppress freedom of expression on social media, and their efforts to divide the revolutionaries are evident.
  • Regarding social media comments, a closer look at the remarks under celebrities’ posts reveals a flood of misleading comments from numerous accounts posing as supporters of the revolution. While there isn’t concrete evidence that these accounts belong to the lobby, the content of their posts raises significant doubts.
  • The police, influenced by military coup lobby accounts, were incited to make immediate arrests based on the connections identified through links, showcasing the significant influence and coercive power of military lobby Telegram channels. This structure appears designed to consolidate and amplify its power. Notably, the time between the initiation of the arrest and the actual arrest itself was only four hours. However, The Red Flag has been unable to conclusively confirm whether the lobbies instigated the arrest or if the military acted upon the lobbies’ instigation.
  • The military council, relying on information from military lobby social networking sites, has consistently observed arresting entrepreneurs since 2022. Individuals who express support for the revolution, write texts advocating for change, and engage in commentary under media outlets that report truthfully about the military are often targeted, monitored, and subsequently arrested. This includes the closure of their businesses. As an illustrative example, in October 2022, U Kyaw Thura, the owner of Burmese Thura Gem Company in Mandalay, was apprehended by the military council, and assets valued at 120,000 million kyat were sealed and confiscated.
  • This incident serves as another reminder of the need for special caution in using social media during the revolution. Actions that might inadvertently provide information to lobbies underscore the importance of exercising careful discretion in our writings.
  • In summary, the impact of social media on Myanmar’s transformation remains notably substantial and highly sensitive. Therefore, media professionals, researchers, and information examiners must exercise exceptional caution. The role of social media companies has evolved into not just a communication platform but also one that inadvertently facilitates arrests and fosters injustice. This underscores the platform’s unintended promotion of oppressive actions, marking a significant event that highlights this alarming reality.